Double Dead

Double Dead
A Steve Harlan Mystery
Terry Hoover
Five Star â„¢, an imprint of Thomson Gale



This is an entertaining and engaging first offering in a soon to be popular mystery series set in the Deep South. It is different form many other series as well, because the PI on the case is a family man with a wife Susie and two young children that he adores. His wife helps him think through some of the aspects of his cases and she can take care of herself in an intelligent way when trouble approaches.

Reading this book, I mentally went back to the summer of 1961 and could taste the hot air and humidity of my early youth. I turned on a fan. Everyone was learning to use Yo-Yos in 1961, just as in the book; madras was the big fashion item at Kresge and Woolworth stores, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in the White House.  

Down in Charlotte, North Carolina, it is hot and residents in the story are building bomb shelters. Kids are practicing “duck and cover” at school under their desks. John Lattimore is the wealthy banker in town and lives next door to estranged wife, which is peculiar. His friend and mistress, Delores Green, is murdered and he is arrested and charged with the crime. Not a very likeable man and even a bully, Lattimore is condemned guilty by public opinion, but his attorney George Warren brings in Steve Harlan, PI to find evidence to the contrary. Steve cannot decide whether Lattimore is innocent or guilty, but he pursues the case to its solid ending.

Steve Harlan was formerly a top newspaperman, but morally straight, he exposed scandal among the management and quit. He doesn’t talk about it much and often has trouble making ends meet as a PI, but he forges ahead on the force of his determination to care for his family and do worthwhile work. However, he has kept contacts in the newspaper business, including his old office, and relies on a give-and-take arrangement with them by which they all profit.

Alcohol and drugs seemed to have been involved in the Green murder, but Lattimore tires to cover it all up by bullying Delores’s 13-year-old son Greg into providing his alibi. He then proclaims that Delores drank herself today and died in bed. Somehow, though, the corpse suffered 200 bruises and this did not happen while she was asleep in bed alone. Some witnesses testify that Delores took prescription drugs but did not drink, while others say she drank but took no drugs. Confounding all this, Delores disappeared overnight two days before her demise. Where was she? A series of automobile service station incidents and poker games among auto mechanics lead Steve Harlan on a chase around the state in pursuit of various clues and additional witnesses. Meanwhile, someone threatens Steve’s family. Susie handles that as Steve tracks down new persons of interest in the case and ties together al the evidence for a solution.

This first book of a series by Terry Hoover has been a finalist in the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Contest for Best First Traditional Mystery. This is remarkable, because Malice Domestic produces a yearly collection of short mystery stories by renowned authors. For instance, the Carole Nelson Douglas story “Parris Green, an Irene Adler Story” in the second collection is superb in its rendering and its premise of Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes cannon as an uncanny investigator all on her own. Terry Hoover will join the ranks of such authors as an unforgettable mystery writer in her own right as well.
Mystery series lovers will enjoy this new Steve Harlan series from Terry Hoover, as well as anyone interested in 1960s American history, historical fiction, and the victory of justice.

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