Wake Up and Die, by Jack Lynch****

wakeupanddieThis book is the fourth in the series featuring Peter Bragg; the series was nominated for the Edgar Award and twice for the Shamus Award. I’ve read three others in the series already, so imagine my delight when I located this book, formerly published as Sausalito, among the DRC’s offered by Brash Priority Readers Circle.

And apologies to my readers: I originally published this review under a different title. I use my Goodreads account to organize my shelves, a lazy, easy way to keep track of what I am reading (usually 6-8 books at a time); what is waiting to be read next; what I have, own, and intend to read later; and even what books I don’t have and hope to get. The weak link, as was proven here, is that when a book’s title changes, Goodreads’s new owner, Amazon, is very restrictive about accepting new titles. In years past, since I am a Goodreads volunteer librarian, all I had to do to personally add a title and book jacket was either scan it physically, or send a relevant link to the superlibrarians (the ones that get paid), and they would drop it into the website.

Not anymore.

Before I knew it I was confused, and since I knew I had two Bragg titles to read and had just finished one, I assumed it was that of the single book jacket on my Goodreads page. There is a cost to letting someone else’s system organize one’s reading, and this is it. So this review was originally published on this blog as The Dead Never Forget, which is the first Bragg title and which I have not yet read. My apologies again to my readers and to Brash Books.

Like most Peter Bragg mysteries, this one is set in the Bay Area. A huge development is about to built on the waterfront, complete with a convention center and any number of hotels and restaurants. The problem arises when the residents of area houseboats protest the likelihood that they will be shut out. Bragg is working a different case, one involving pornographic photos that have been sent to the subject’s father, when he finds himself on the waterfront near his home helping to get people and pets to safety after a suspicious fire breaks out. A murder is discovered and before you know it, all hell has broken loose.

The setting is the 1990’s, shortly before the internet changed all of our lives. It is actually a contemporary setting because this is when the mystery was written, but now as it is re-released, it feels like a noir setting, because all of the telephones are land lines and all files are on paper buried in metal cabinets. In this sense, I think the series actually benefits from the time lag.

The novel is ambitious, bouncing us from one setting to another and introducing a large number of characters. I had trouble keeping track of them all. I might have wondered whether my mind was getting old and rusty but for the fact that I was reading a different galley at the same time with even more characters, and the latter left me with no doubt whatsoever who each one was.

On the plus side is not only our opportunity to meet the detective in his first criminal investigation, but I also like the way issues of race and gender are treated; appropriate and at times quite zesty without ever appearing to be self-consciously PC or awkward. There is a moment toward the end that made me want to stand up and cheer! This moment took what was about to be a three star review and bounced it back up to four stars.

On the downside, in addition to the confusion engendered by too frequently hopping between undeveloped characters and situations, there’s an over-the-top moment that some readers will enjoy, but that I found was too much for me: too much vigilantism, too violent, and over the top on my personal ick-meter.

Those that are fans of Jack Lynch will want to read this newly-republished mystery in order to introduce themselves to a kick-ass series. Those that love good mysteries and/or fiction set in the San Francisco area should also get this book and read it.

Why not spend a weekend curled up with Peter Bragg?

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