Teddy Ruzak is a plus-sized Knoxville night watchman turned naïve private investigator. In Richard Yancey’s The Highly Effective Detective ($23.95, pb January ‘08) socially-challenged Teddy is anything but. When his mom dies, he uses a modest inheritance to set up an office above a dry cleaner. Felicia, his favorite waitress, is hired as Girl Friday and promptly sets about redecorating the office, herself, and Teddy.
Because the police laughed at Hudson Parker, Teddy gets his first client. Parker, who has money thank goodness, is outraged by a hit and run driver in a black SUV who killed a family of six goslings on the road along his jogging route. He wants Teddy to find him. This is a great hook for the reader, and frankly the best and freshest aspect of the novel.
As clueless Teddy spins his wheels, and Felicia spends his dwindling nest egg, the story gradually moves from cozy to medium dark. The Highly Effective Detective has been out for months and there’s been some positive feedback. But it just didn’t do it for me. Attempts at humor are largely unsuccessful. And while there are some touching and mildly suspenseful moments, I felt the story lacked tension and action.
Oddly, just the opposite can be said about author RickYancey’s two teen reader titles, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp ($7.99) and Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon ($16.95). In ..Adventures, Alfred first steals Excalibur then must atone by saving the world and getting the legendary sword back to its rightful place. In ..Solomon, Alfred reencounters the OIPEP (Office of Interdimensional Paradoxes and Extraordinary Phenomenon). Then he faces the power of the Great Seal, a ring and key, and the release of fallen angels from a Pandora’s Vessel bent on destruction and catastrophe. Both are recommended for great humor, high crimes and higher tension, murder and sacrifice, surprise, action and very fast cars. The requisite coming-of-age theme places fifteen year old foster kid and high school misfit Alfred squarely in the Young Adult (or is it Juvenile?) category. And with the fantastic forces of evil arrayed against him, both novels fall into Uncle Hugo’s territory. But any eclectic reader should enjoy them.