Review: Eastport (Long Island) Chief of Police Hank Reed's investigation of the murder of a close friend is complicated when he discovers that the dead man may have been having an affair with Reed's wife in Hunter's World, the first mystery in this series by Fred Lichtenberg.
John Hunter, a widely read advice columnist, is found dead in his home, an apparent suicide. Reed's first look around the house yields a trove of paintings hidden the attic, depicting Hunter with several local women in sexual poses. He's troubled to realize he clearly didn't know his good friend as well as he thought, but he's shocked when he finds one picture includes his own wife Susan. Then the coroner identifies strychnine in Hunter's body and concludes he was murdered, his death simply staged as a suicide. Even though they are evidence in a murder investigation, he's determined to keep the paintings a secret, and most certainly out of the press — especially since his wife is in one of them and he would immediately become a "person of interest" in Hunter's murder as a consequence — word does get out, throwing the town's residents into a minor frenzy. Not so much that there's a killer in their midst, but that the secrets that several of them were keeping are suddenly public knowledge.
Hunter's World includes several familiar elements, not the least of which is a cop in a troubled marriage, struggling to find balance in his life. Reed's wife Susan is, of course, a suspect in Hunter's murder, but with him acting all strangely around her, she suspects he may be the killer. It is this dynamic that is probably the weakest part of the book, both in how it is presented and, most especially, how it plays out; it is all so predictable. A different ending would have gone a long ways towards setting this mystery apart. Better, however, is the small town environment in which the storyline takes place. There's something appealing about a supposedly idyllic village where evil lurks just beneath the surface, ready to spring its ugly head at just the right (or for some, the wrong) moment. And while this, too, is a familiar element, it's handled quite well here. A sequel is almost certainly in order … preferably one in which Reed's case is possibly a little less personal.
Acknowledgment: the author provided an ARC of Hunter's World for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Hunter's World: Long Island, New York
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Hunter's World by Fred Lichtenberg — A Hank Reed Mystery
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: May 2011
List Price: $25.95