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Sunday, April 21, 2013


5 stars out of 5

Wish I could remember who got my husband Jack and I started reading books by Les Roberts, but all I know for sure is that it happened many years ago (this latest one, Whiskey Island, is the 16th featuring cop-turned-private detective Milan Jacovich). Initially, our interest was piqued because the P.I. lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. Since it's a little more than an hour's drive from our home, we're fairly familiar with the city, and it's fun to read about places, and sometimes people, we know about.

Over the years, we've enjoyed many of Roberts's other books (The Strange Death of Father Candy and We'll Always Have Cleveland: A Memoir of a Novelist and a City among them). The latter, by the way, offers an up-close-and-personal look at what brought Roberts from the sunny climes of California to the more dismal Lake Erie shores of northeast Ohio. Out west, among other accomplishments, he was a writer for the TV show "Hollywood Squares," "The Andy Griffith Show" and others and has been a professional actor, jazz musician and teacher. 

It is the books in the Jacovich series that remain our favorites, though, and Whiskey Island doesn't disappoint. The topic of disappointment does crop up in the context of Roberts's books, though, since none are available for the Kindle (if you've got a Nook ebook reader, you're in luck, but we have to settle for a hard copy, and that does not make me a happy camper. The only reason I'm willing to consider that option, in fact, is that so far, at least, I enjoy the books so much that I don't want to miss one. 

Here, Jacovich - who's pushing 60 - takes on a brash young apprentice who's trying to make his bones as a private investigator and maybe even earn a full-time job as well. Sometimes, their relationship mixes no better than oil and water, but for the most part, they get along fairly well. Even before Kevin O'Bannion - known as "K.O." - gets a desk and computer, the firm is hired by a city councilman who's been indicted on many counts of bribery and other deeds unbecoming a public official and is looking at serious jail time. Apparently, or so he claims, someone is trying to murder him - and Jacovich and K.O. take on the job of finding out who that someone is before it becomes mission accomplished.

All that leads the dynamic duo through a maze of dishonest politicians and businessmen, a call girl who turns up dead and hanky-panky on Cleveland's Whiskey Island - hence the name of the book. Along the way, both Jacovich and K.O. get lucky in the female department, although it's hard to tell which of the guys is more surprised.

The chapters alternate from the point of view of Jacovich and K.O., and interestingly (well, to me, anyway), the Jacovich chapters are written in the first person just as in past books, while K.O.'s are written in the third person. I'm not sure what the significance of that is other than to keep things changed up a bit, but the thought certainly occurred to me that perhaps K.O. has a future in a spin-off series - perhaps even taking over when Jacovich decides he's too old for the private eye life and calls it a day.

Whiskey Island: A Milan Jacovich Mystery by Les Roberts; Gray & Co. Publishers (August 2012); 259 pp.

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