Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Blake Harte Mystery, Book 1 - Untouchable

A man is thrown into a shed and locked inside.  There is only one door in and out.  There are no windows and no trick doors.  The man was alive when he was thrown into the shed.  When the shed is opened, he falls out, dead with three gunshot wounds.

It is the ultimate "locked room" mystery, and author Robert Innes weaves a superb tale of secrets, pain (both physical and emotional), and new beginnings in his first Blake Harte mystery, Untouchable.  I had this book on my Amazon watch list for quite a while, and a few months ago, I finally took the plunge and bought this first book.  I figured if it wasn't any good, I could pass it on and not buy any more.  Well, that is certainly not the case by any means, and I have already ordered the second book and can't wait to read it!

Innes' protagonist, Blake Harte, is a believable, caring Detective Sergeant who has just moved to the small town of Harmschapel.  He's hoping to get away from a bad break-up, and a new job, a new house, and a new community might just be the fix.  But, immediately upon his arrival, he finds himself thrust into a domestic violence call that turns deadly.  Harrison Baxter is a young gay man who thought he found his true love - but can true love withstand physical and emotional abuse?  Just as he finally gets the courage to break things off with his boyfriend, Daniel, things go from bad to worse - his father catches Daniel attacking him, so he throws Daniel into the shed behind their house, locks him in there, and calls the police.  The only problem is, when the police arrive, they open the shed to find Daniel dead, from three gunshot wounds!

Harmschapel (gotta love that name!) may seem like a quiet, quaint little town, but it is harboring some deep, dark secrets of its own.  A bitter detective who makes no bones about the fact that he wanted the job Blake got.  An abusive boyfriend, whose father died in a drunk driving accident and whose mother can't stay sober enough to see what her son is doing.  A mother and father who have a strained relationship, to the point that Harrison has to listen from his room to the abuse that goes on each night.  And a new Detective Sergeant who hasn't quite gotten over the fact that he caught his ex-boyfriend cheating on him - with a woman!

How did Daniel get shot in a locked shed?  Who killed Daniel?  And how can Blake solve this mystery when all the evidence points to the one person he is sure is innocent?  I will say this - while I did manage to figure out the identity of the killer before the reveal, I can honestly say the secrets this person was keeping and the motive behind the murder were not at all what I was expecting.  Which, makes me happy, because it means Innes was not only creative in his plotting, but he creatively keeps the reader guessing with misdirection and red herrings so that the solution to the crime is not so easy to figure out!

And Innes rounds the story out with a large supporting cast, all of whom I grew to love pretty quickly.  Inspector Royale, Sergeant Mandy Darnwood, Sergeant Gardiner, P.C. Patil, and P.C. Billy Mattison make up the police force in Harmschapel, while the barkeep, Robin, at the local pub, provides the information contact that knows pretty much everything that goes on in that sleepy hollow.  Although probably not as much as Blake's landlady, Jacqueline, who is quite the gossip and more than a bit smitten with Blake (too bad she's barking up the wrong tree!).  Each of the characters are well-rounded, with their own set of quirks, and give the book a grounded sense of reality.  They also provide plenty of contrast to Blake's normally calm, caring demeanor.

And, if the end of this first mystery is any indication, Blake might not be on his own much longer...

Definitely a superb start to a series, and I am looking forward to following Blake as he solves more crimes in his new home town of Harmschapel.

RATING:  10 butting billy goats out of 10 for kicking off a mystery series with a twist-and-turn murder and quickly lovable characters - it's got me hooked!

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