The Little Death by Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (124 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum
Jake Falconer, a hard-boiled detective in Echo City, is struggling with his love of booze, a square ex (and a cop, no less) he can't get over, and a murdered partner. In sashays Sloane, an homme fatal whose twin brother has gone missing. The search leads them to a sex club used for blackmailing the city’s most powerful, and soon Jake finds himself hip deep in sex and danger—it’s a good thing he’s no stranger to slogging through either.
Fans of classic Film Noir and hard hitting private detectives of old will get a kick out this little treat, The Little Death.
Many years ago, my great-aunt gave me an old dime store novel by Mickey Spillane who created an indelible character well loved by mystery readers, Mike Hammer. That character was very distrustful of people no matter the profession. Everyone was suspect and the flavor was always smoky, dark and gritty as the character walked within the dark gray areas of society. Ms. Speed has provided her own version of that misanthropic P.I. in the form of Jake Falconer. If the author has set out to capture the flavor of a man disenchanted with life but who keeps on going just to tweak the noses of ‘authority’, then she’s succeeded.
Jake is a hard man. He drinks like a sotted fish, makes no apologies for his appearance or attitude and is his own worst enemy. It was hard to be sympathetic towards him because he’s so ornery but by the same token it’s why I liked him. He’s a smart-mouthed tough-guy who hides any softer feelings with acerbic wit and insults and yet, he’s fair and has a code of honor and ethics all his own. And, he’s in love. But he won’t ever say the words. There was just something about his character that I enjoyed that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it was because he wasn’t all pretty and perfect and vanilla. He has vices, he has a dubious sexual code, meaning, if there’s an itch, it’s meant to be scratched, and he is a bit slovenly. He’s certainly not my ideal candidate for a white-knight-on-a-horse hero but he is a hero nonetheless; it's just that his armor is a bit tarnished, dented and well worn.
The plot is basic – who is trying to kill who and why? It’s a mystery with lots of action, mostly poor Jake getting the business end of a fist or two, or three. The secondary characters flit in and out of chapters providing motivation, red herrings and conflict. The romance angle is more romantic elements than outright romance. Kyle is the man who actually holds Jake’s heart but for some reason he keeps the hunky cop at a distance. That adds another level to the hero’s character – emotionally tortured individual who doesn’t think he’s good enough to be loved. Based on what I read, he certainly doesn’t make it easy but I think loving Jake would be worth it, if you had a thick skin. And, I do have hope for him because when he kisses Kyle, the words he uses told me what I needed to hear.
The novella is written in first person point of view and the dialogue is as hard-hitting as one would expect from a man who does what he does for a profession. Jake and Kyle do physically connect but Jake just fills a reader in -- the scenes are behind closed doors. He’s private that way. His delivery reminded me of the old Dragnet T.V. series, “Just the facts, Ma’am”.
This tale is fast moving and the author has some descriptive passages that read like poetry. Not flowery mind you, more like testosterone laden and filled with action words. It fits the main protagonist and gives a reader insight into his world. There is even some self-depreciating humor that was delivered in such a dry manner, it cracked me up. Jake is cool.
The Little Death is full of swagger, action and attitude. It’s populated with people who live on the dark side and the only person able to make them toe the line of justice is someone who can smack them back with that bit of darkness roiling inside himself. Jake has a love interest but until he loves himself I fear poor Kyle is in for a rough time of it. I’m hoping for Jake’s redemption, or at least a solid try at A.A. but the best I can hope for is for Jake to stumble into another mystery. Why? So I can get another chance to see where Ms. Speed is going to take his romance with Kyle and what can of worms Jake is going to open next because something tells me that’s one jackpot he’s more than likely to win.