The Combat Zone
By Jed Power
1972. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drugs are king. War protesters clog the sidewalks. Private eye Michael Malloy has been hired by a father worried about his missing daughter. Seems a straight-forward enough case, the girl might be involved in the drug scene, so he hires Stony Sundown, a dealer and user, to assist. Soon, though, Malloy runs afoul of a biker gang and the police, two groups of people who want Malloy to cease his search. Another is the mob. Of course, Malloy won’t (because that would make for a stupid story. Lol.) since he’s haunted by an old war memory. His job doesn’t become any easier once the case moves to the bad side of Boston and once he, himself, is affected by some white powder.
A good ol’ P.I. story is hard to beat. Set in a period of turmoil and change, this one has all the elements of a decent story.
Michael Malloy: late 20s, private investigator, former soldier in Vietnam, 6’2”, drives a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, owns a .38
Stony Sundown: early 20s, drug dealer, smokes pot, shoulder length, red/blond hair, blue eyes, bearded, thin, tall
Billy Skinner: mid 30s, police investigator, Malloy’s cousin, 140 lbs, 5’6”, thin, receding brown hair, has a daughter
Tank Turner: bearded, biker gang member, tall, large frame
Julie: Malloy’s former girlfriend, thin, dusty blonde
Nice cast. You have the love interest, the baddies in various forms, the bartender (I mean what P.I. story doesn’t have a bartender at some point?), the assistant, and the cops. What else do you need? Everybody is distinct, with individual personalities.
Pretty good voices. Some extraneous conversation, but nothing that flattens or bores. It just fills in around the edges.
First person from Malloy’s POV. Profanity
A lot of sentences start with ‘and’ or ‘but’. This works sometimes, but I think an author ought to be able to rewrite so as not begin sentences with conjunctions.
Good selection of period references.
While waiting for the big bad guy to make contact and from there to the climax, things slowed. Not much, but just enough I noticed.
One problem I have with Malloy and his drug use: I realize everyone reacts to drugs differently. However, with as much as he uses, I don’t see a lot of the effects except for a couple scenes, other than him getting tired a lot. The author might have shown his actions during the ‘high’, shown his emotions a bit more.
Good action scenes. Intellectual, thought out.
This one is definitely worth the read.