The Big Brush-Off by Michael Murphy

the-big-brush-off-by-michael-murphyThe Big Brush-Off by Michael Murphy
Series: A Jake and Laura Mystery #4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: NYC & Pennsylvania, the Great Depression (1935)
Published by Alibi, 2016
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: February 9)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
237 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: The irresistible Jake & Laura return in Michael Murphy’s witty, fast-paced mystery series—perfect for readers of Dorothy Cannell and Christopher Fowler. In The Big Brush-off, the charming and indomitable duo heads to the Midwest to solve a chilling cold case of a young girl’s murder.

Blackie Doyle is dying. That’s what Jake Donovan’s literary agent tells him. Sales are falling, and the rough draft of Jake’s latest Blackie novel doesn’t look promising. Maybe Jake has been distracted by a recent barrage of real-life homicides, or by his marriage to the beautiful up-and-coming actress Laura Wilson, now slated for a part opposite Clark Gable himself. Whatever the reason, Jake decides to return to his roots. Which is why he and Laura hop the next train to the small town in Pennsylvania where Jake once worked as a Pinkerton detective.

Ten years ago, the murder of a teenage girl interrupted life in quiet, God-fearing Hanover. The unsolved case has always gnawed at Jake, and it seems no coincidence that as soon as he starts digging up old ghosts, he’s once again writing like a dervish. Nor is it surprising that some townfolk would rather see the truth stay buried—and maybe even Jake and Laura with it. But the glamorous crime-solving pair refuse to leave before sorting through a bevy of suspects—and at long last nailing the one who almost got away with the not-so-perfect crime.

Initial impressions

  • Jake and Laura are a great couple and I like that Jake is a mystery writer solving a “real-life” mystery–a mystery that’s haunted him for ten years.

The story

  • A good mystery set during the Great Depression about an author and his actress wife who decide to solve a cold case for the dying mother.
  • Jake and Laura are a couple who haven’t been hurt by the Depression. Jake is a successful author and Laura is a talented actress.
  • However, because Jake is so successful he has lost touch with his private investigator main character. Jake used to the good life no longer relates to his working class character or all the people struggling to survive in the country.
  • Jake’s editor tells him the book he’s written isn’t publishable. Two people from his past visit him about his last case which he never solved when he worked as a Pinkerton detective. He and Laura decide to go back to Pennsylvania to the town where the teenager was murdered

The merits

  • I like the relationship between Jake and Laura. It’s obvious they like and love each other and work well together. And they’re nice people. They care about other people.
  • Jake insists he’s come back to Pennsylvania to work on his writing–and he does and is able to write a good story again–but he also gets caught up in the murder case.
  • The murder had plenty of suspects and kept me guessing.
  • The story has a noir vibe to it–partly because of the time period, I think.
  • I like the way the author shows how the Depression has hit most people.

The flaws

  • I thought Jake got his writing mojo back too easily.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I haven’t read the first three books in the series and I didn’t have a problem reading this book and enjoying it. However, I do think I might have enjoyed this book even more if I had read them.

Have you read this book or others in the series? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Michael Murphy is a part-time urban chicken rancher and the author of The Yankee Club, All That Glitters, and Wings in the Dark. He lives in Arizona with his wife of more than forty years and their five newly adopted children. He’s active in several local writers’ groups and conducts novel-writing workshops at bookstores and libraries.

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