Book Review: Bayou City Burning

It’s evident from the very first line that BAYOU CITY BURNING will be a throwback to the 1930-40s hardboiled fiction. The difference is that instead of Prohibition, in this book set in 1961 Houston, society is dealing with desegregation and space wars. But like any good hardboiled PI story, it still features a tough, wise-cracking PI with his own moral code, willing to bend the law for a good cause while dealing with both the mob and the corrupt political system.

Harry Lark is hired by a stranger to follow a couple NASA engineers and report on their activities. The stranger won’t say why, but he’ll pay—and Harry’s got bills. He thinks it’s over when he hands in the report, but the plot thickens when the stranger is later found murdered in Harry’s office.

Meanwhile, Harry’s 12-year-old daughter Dizzy—her father’s mini-me in personality if not looks—opens a Lost and Found with two friends. They aren’t expecting to be asked to find a “lost” father, but that’s what happens when 7-year-old Sissy doesn’t believe her father really died a train wreck. A Barbie doll arrived in the mail on her birthday, and she’s sure her father sent it. Dizzy and her friends agree to take the case.

It seems that father and daughter are working two very different mysteries, though they help each other out with advice, ideas, and (sometimes unbelievable) actions. However, author D.B. Borton manages to bring the cases together slicker than Harry’s oiled hair.

The pleasure in reading BAYOU CITY BURNING comes from both the delightful prose—which is full of wit, slang, and similes—and the characters. For although Harry is a hardboiled PI, he’s also contemplative and a caring father; and Dizzy is as empathetic as she is precocious. They’re a perfect team. I look forward to their next appearance.

My review is given honestly although I was given an advance copy of the book.

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