Author: Russell Blake
Performed by RC Bray
Published: Janda Management and released by Audible April 2014
Category: Hardboiled/Noir Fiction
'Artemus Black. Perennially down-on-his-luck Hollywood PI whose Bogie fixation is as dated as his wardrobe. With an assistant who mocks him relentlessly, an obese cat that loathes him, a romantic life that’s deader than Elvis, money problems, booze, nicotine, and anger management issues, how much worse can it get? When he takes a case that’s supposed to be easy money working for a celebrity whose colleagues and surrounding paparazzi are dropping faster than interest in the star’s big comeback, the cakewalk turns ugly and Black finds himself in a web of deceit, betrayal, and murder – and bad hair days.'
Black is a real vintage feel PI, with slicked back black hair, dressing in 40’s style suits and fedora hats, as though he’s been whisked away from his own time zone and dropped into the present day. I was picturing a James Garner look-a-like all the way through. He’s down on his luck and harbouring bitter feelings about his immensely rich parents who not only gave him the name he hates and refuse to call him anything else, but also became wealthy with the minimum of effort, while he struggles to make ends meet.
Artemus ‘Jim’ Black is an intriguing character and regardless of his faults he’s a really good guy with a soft side and a good dose of morality. This is a fun read with lots of humour, although the murders give the story a darker side which balances things out. The descriptive writing and solid plot are executed superbly and the dialogue is sharp and witty.
Black’s snarky secretary, Roxie, in an unconventional character with an individual appearance and an attitude issue. She is the antithesis of Black. She gives him a hard time verbally, mostly about his dress sense and because he’s less than affectionate to the stray fat cat who has taken up residence in Black’s office. The one liners and banter between the two of them is seriously comical. Well portrayed and defined, colourful and amusing characters abound and give the story an authentic feel.
'Black had been working with Roxie on improving her attitude, but some days it seems like a losing battle. It was a pity she was so good at what she did – running the office, juggling administrative duties and research that made the FBI look like neophytes.
“It means I think we can improve our brand, Roxie.”
”Our….brand. I see. Have you been drinking?”
”Branding is very important.”
”Maybe if you’re a cowboy or a steer. Wait – did you mix up your meds again?” Roxie asked.'
This my first Russell Blake book but I’ll definitely read/listen to more of his work. I have the rest of the Black series and Jet lined up. If you’re a fan of the genre it’s well worth a read or a listen if audio books are your thing. RC Bray does a great job giving Black a ‘voice’, also with his interpretations of the rest of the characters. The humour, pacing and delivery of the comedic lines are all spot on.