“ Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: J.R. Rain / Kindle Edition „
Since getting my Kindle, I've been introduced to lots of new writers and their works. Some have been real turkeys but amongst the vanity published novels and the dross, there are some real gems to be discovered and Dark Horse definitely falls into that latter category.
Jim Knighthorse was an ex-college football player at the start of a promising career in the professional league but an end of season game left him with a gammy leg so now he's working as a private investigator just until his leg gets better and he can return to playing the game he loves, though in his heart of hearts he knows his playing career is over. Jim has been called in to dig a little deeper into the murder of Amanda Peterson. Her boyfriend, high school student Derrick Booker, stands accused of the murder but he claims he's innocent and his defence attorney believes him. Once Jim begins the investigation, he turns up a few skeletons in the cupboards of the teaching staff at the high school, along with some additional evidence concerning his mother's unsolved murder.
I'm a sucker for anti-heroes, especially private investigators with personality flaws cut in the mould of a wise-cracking Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade and Jim Knighthorse is just such a PI. This is definitely in the category of easy reading but don't be fooled by the simplicity of the writing, the story has a convoluted plot and great depth of characterisation.
J R Rain could best be described as a prolific writer and if this book is anything to go by, the secret of his success is that he's wise enough to write about what he knows and he knows from firsthand experience about working as a private investigator. He's also pretty knowledgeable when it comes to anthropology, too, having gained a degree in that subject. His biography on his website is pretty open, honest and quirky and that is just about how the main protagonist, Jim Knighthorse comes across. It seems the fictional apple hasn't fallen too far from the authorial tree.
Jim Knighthorse is essentially his own man. He speaks his mind and isn't too bothered about political correctness. He's an attractive character, largely because he has a huge streak of vulnerability in respect to his damaged leg keeping him out of the sport he loves, but rather than sitting about feeling sorry for himself, Knighthorse has found himself an alternative career. He may come across as slightly arrogant but it's in keeping with someone who has enjoyed a successful career and the adulation of the crowd and despite this arrogance, Jim also has a goodly amount of charm to balance the effect. He also has a back history laden with sorrow and mystery and this investigation turns up evidence which may eventually help him solve his mother's murder.
His investigation of the present day crime is logical and methodical and it doesn't take him long to realise that Derrick, the lone black student in an all white school, has been set up. It seems Derrick's girlfriend may have had another suitor and one who wants to cover his tracks by pointing the figure of suspicion towards Derrick and, of course, the reader along with Knighthorse encounters many red herrings before the culprit is revealed.
Like all the best PIs, Jim Knighthorse has good friends and colleagues who prove useful to his investigation as does his obligatory girlfriend, this time an anthropology lecturer, but though all these secondary characters are well realised, it's the main character who dominates throughout the book.
With regard to the secondary characters, one who stands out in particular is God, or at least a man Jim knows who claims to be God, though he's currently masquerading as Jack 'a homeless man dressed in rags and smelling like an overripe dumpster.' Some of the conversation between Jack (God) and Knighthorse are a pleasure to read. When Jim asks him (or should that be Him) 'How's it hanging?', God remarks that some would think it a little irreverent to ask but assures Jim that they're hanging to the left! Despite all the evidence to the contrary, however, like Jim, the wisdom that comes out of Jack's mouth, makes one almost believe that he is God.
J R Rain used to write screenplays for a living and this book follows the same sort of style. It tells the story through Jim Knighthorse's eyes and is mainly delivered through the dialogue. There isn't very much descriptive writing at all and what there is, is kept to the bare minimum and yet the author still manages to convey the story in a very visual way. In many respects it's like reading the script for a TV detective series and it tells the story in an exciting manner at almost breakneck speed. In short, it's a real page turner.
I daresay I ought to point out some negative aspects of the book, though for me they were few and far between. I suppose the harshest criticism would be that there is possibly a little too much of the wise-cracking, not just from Jim himself but all his friends and colleagues seem to have gone to the Philip Marlowe school of speech and language. Also, not being much of a lover of sport in any way, shape or form, and most especially not American Football, I did become a little bored by the constant football references but these may not grate so much on more sporty people.
I enjoyed this book far more than I anticipated. The story may not win any prizes for originality as the shelves of many a bookstore are littered with novels featuring private investigators carved in this particular mould, but it's a well told story full of humour, suspense and drama with a dash of social comment thrown in for good measure and it's certainly whetted my appetite for the two remaining books in the Jim Knighthorse series which I'm guessing will continue to develop further the as yet unsolved investigation into his mother's death.
This novel is currently available for free download to your Kindle so it won't cost you a penny to discover this very competent writer for yourselves.