Jaden Terrell’s excellent debut mystery novel RACING THE DEVIL provides freshness to the niche genre that is the noir male private eye, while still giving the readers of niche everything they look for. Characters with troubled pasts, women with ulterior motives, sudden violence, but unlike much of noir, the protagonist, Jared McKean is far from a loner and has rich and interesting relationships with is family, child, roommate, friends and even horses.
Racing the Devil starts with the novel’s protagonist, Jared McKean, having an amorous encounter with a woman in a bar only to wake up two days later and discover he’s been framed for the murder of a woman he doesn’t know and it’s a doozy, witnesses, fingerprints, DNA, etc..
If that wasn’t bad enough, his personal life is maze of difficult relationships: his brother, who abandoned a promising dream career to raise Jared, is having issues with his Goth son; Jared’s roommate has AIDs; a duplicitous local hotshot reporter who had once been Jared’s girlfriend is all over the murder case; and the woman Jared loves is married to another man and she has custody of his beloved son Paul who has Down Syndrome. He also owns and loves horses, which plays nicely into the storyline. While Jared rushes to prove his innocence, his personal life is imploding.
The only weakness would be is that some of the action, though realistic and character revealing, was not tied tightly into the storyline. The strongest part of the novel is the way Terrell weaves in Jared’s murder case with his personal problems and tells the story in forward motion using only short, pertinent, and compelling back-flashes sparsely, and saving backstory for when you need to know it. Terrell also rarely relies on clichés and that makes her prose is richer and more engrossing.
Highly recommended for those who like mysteries and/or characters that have strong emotional connections to others.
(This review is based on an Advanced Review Copy provided by the publisher)