Classic Naples-based mystery series says adieu with class
This is Naples resident Kinley Roby’s 11th and final Harry Brock Mystery. Though he had planned for it to be the last, an unexpected dilemma must have sullied the closure experience a bit. Accidentally deleting the almost completed text file and its backup from his computer (a cautionary tale, writer friends), Mr. Roby had to laboriously reconstruct his narrative. In the interim, the publisher of the first 10 series titles decided to abandon the detective fiction genre, leaving the author with little choice but to self-publish it via Amazon’s Digital Services division.
The good news is that it’s here — but so far only as an e-book.
A confessed fan of the series, I found it once again meeting the high bar of the others in most ways. Readers might trip over the typos of one kind or another that haven’t yet been corrected, but there are still so many things to enjoy.
Mr. Roby sets the series in a disguised version of Naples and environs. Those familiar with the area will have fun penetrating the place names (such as “Vienna Village”) the author invents for familiar locations, as well his presentation of the cultural environment.
Harry is still running his PI business, patrolling the patch of government land called Bartram’s Hammock on the edge of the Everglades. He inhabits a small house in exchange for warden duties, and he gets mixed up in cases that also involve local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
And, as in past adventures, beautiful women are omnipresent.
Harry’s also still spending time with his friend and neighbor, Tucker. The two aging outdoorsmen are still doing a bit of farming. It’s a delight that the author allows us to see them tending to pets with whom they carry on conversations.
Harry and Tucker are an intelligent, humorous odd couple. Tucker’s niece, Delia, temporarily living with her uncle, is one of several attractive women whom Harry admires and with whom a relationship almost blooms.
Plot? An enormous international trade in stolen art run by cutthroat thieves is leaving a trail of bodies and threatens to leave more if Harry and the law enforcement officials can’t put a stop to the menace. Some of those involved in this illicit industry are on the edge of cooperating with the authorities to save their own lives and perhaps some of their filthy lucre. The ins and outs of the complex schemes that all sides are hatching create the intellectual stimulation that Mr. Roby’s novels always deliver.
The dialogue between Harry and his friends in uniform captures the nature of their relationships as well as the ways professionals develop and refine plans designed to take down criminals. Mr. Roby’s characters are well delineated by their patterns of speech and other tools of this writer’s trade.
There’s more than enough violence, including a huge shootout, to satisfy any filmmaker looking for a book to base a box office success upon. There’s also plenty of suspense and an unusually deep penetration into the minds and feelings of the main players.
Mr. Roby’s dedication to building complex, credible characters is best revealed in his treatment of the slow demise of Harry’s relationship with Holly, a woman he has lived with and loves, but not enough to step out of his safety zone and follow her to the place she needs to make home. Their problem with commitment and exposure is drawn with sensitivity and sympathy.
Somewhat less credible, but totally enjoyable, is the striking Russian woman named Arda Grigoryev who assists in the art theft business. More accurately, she is trapped in it. Both she and her boss warn that his involvement might lead Harry to harm; unexpectedly, they truly seem to care about him. Harry is charmed by her sexuality and by her laughable mangling of the English language. You will be, too.
A Burmese python, a bear, a sex-starved bobcat, a cerebral mule, a honey harvest and a handful of females fawning over Harry are among the many and varied ingredients in this delicious farewell to Harry Brock. (By the way, Mr. Roby is now working on a western.) ¦
— Phil Jason, Ph. D., United States Naval Academy professor emeritus of English, is a poet, critic and freelance writer with 20 books to his credit, including several studies of war literature and a creative writing text.