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Mystery Monday – Black Hearts and Slow Dancing

Black Hearts and Slow Dancing by Earl Emerson


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Regional setting, sense of humor, and deft writing are combined in this first-of-a-series mystery novel that features Mac Fontana. A firefighter and arson investigator with a hard-luck history, Mac has been through the mill, with a wife killed in a car crash during his own trial in the death of a woman he slapped to death. He’s moved to the Seattle area with his young son and been pressured into becoming the sheriff in addition to his duties as fire chief in the village of Staircase.


In Mac’s jurisdiction, a fireman from Seattle is found tortured to death. Mac’s investigation uncovers civic corruption and a sad lack of a moral compass in aid of urban sprawl. During his search to distinguish the good guys from the other kind, Mac is forced into an oil tank to die, tempted into You-Know by the victim’s weight-lifting GF, and supervises his crew at the arson fire of a church. Emerson has skilled hand for the rousing scene.


This is more a crime novel than a mystery since the perps are easy to spot. Readers that are leery of series books will have to tolerate the gimmicks of local setting, emotionally damaged hero, demonic moguls and their depraved helpers. The barnyard language and humor, plus the loud stupid-on-purpose  atmosphere of a men’s locker room may be too much of a familiar thing for readers who spend quite enough time in a men’s locker room in real life, thank you very much. The three female characters can be summed up easily: one is a pain, the next a flake, and the last a brute.


What may or may not balance this for prospective reader: the wide-ranging action rocks, the pace is brisk, the plot twists and turns in remarkable ways. Plus, there is a Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd named Satan.   The presence of a wonder dog wins extra points, of course. While this novel did not win any awards, Emerson has won honors for other novels, so he is writer that readers can trust will deliver an entertaining mystery.





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