BLACKHEART HIGHWAY by Richard Barre
Berkley Prime Crime Book, Penguin Putnam Inc., June 1999
Private Eye Wil Hardesty is looking for a weekend of R&R, away from his memories of his lost son and in the arms of Kari Thayer, serious girlfriend with a few problems of his own. His plans get detoured when he walks into a robbery in progress and is hired to investigate Doc Whitney, convicted killer now out on bond.
The oil fields of California's Central valley form the backdrop of this novel of greed, vengence, careless destructive love, and ordinary people trying to make a living in a world that doesn't care about their existance. Although Hardesty is hired as a detective, he begins to suspect he's really being set up for something else--like Doc Whitney's killer. Wil quits, but only shortly afterwards, Whitney is back in jail--for new murders. Wil takes it personally.
BLACKHEART HIGHWAY is very much in the tradition of the private dick novels of the thirties or early Spenser mysteries. Wil Hardesty is the classic tortured tough guy. In every battle, he faces two enemies, the real killers and himself--his urge toward alcohol, his self-doubts about his son's death, and his indecisiveness about the women in his life. Richard Barre's style reflects the harse climate of California's central valley--a part of the world that bred classic country music like that sung by Doc Whitney. This superior novel is filled with carefully drawn characters, enough plot twists to hang a man, and a solid feel for the genre.
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Purchase BLACKHEART HIGHWAY from Amazon.com (paperback version).