Blarney: 12 Tales of Lies, Crime & Mystery gathers together a nice collection of Hockensmith’s work which was originally published between 2000-2006. The meat of the collection is made up of six stories featuring Larry Erie, a retired detective turned P.I. and (initially) reluctant cat owner.
Derringer Award-winning “Erie’s Last Day” opens the collection and sets the stage for Erie’s future as a PI by following his last day on the job as a detective. Far from sitting back and enjoying the back pats, balloons and cake, Erie decides to give one of his cold cases a last going over and gets more than he bargained for.
Scattered throughout the rest of the collection we follow Erie, who lives in a relatively sleepy small Indiana town, on adventures that include the search for a hijacked trucking shipment (“The Big Road”), the case of a little girl’s missing dog, which turns out to be something much larger and infinitely more sinister (“Animals”), and the kidnapping of a monkey with an attitude from the local zoo (Shamus Award finalist “Tricks”), among others.
The standout of the collection by far, however, is “Didn’t Do Nothing.” Though Hockensmith has a well-deserved reputation for incorporating a sly, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor into most of his work, “Didn’t Do Nothing” is as serious as a heart attack, fitting since the story is also heart breaking. Early twentysomething Scottie Crocker lives with his aunt and cousin in a poor area of Chicago. Despite his best efforts, Scottie lost his job at McDonald’s because he forgot to show up one time too many, not to mention he tended to yell at customers who made fun of his stuttering and status as mentally challenged. So, when the resident drug dealer offers Scottie $20 to take a walk into a rival dealer’s territory and report back on what he sees Scottie jumps at the chance. After all, he isn’t really doing anything…right?
If you’re unfamiliar with Steve Hockensmith’s writing, Blarney: 12 Tales of Lies, Crime & Mystery is a great way to get your toes wet. And if you’re already a fan, it’s a convenient way to catch up on a dozen entertaining stories you may have missed along the way or simply would love another chance to read all in one place. In either event it’s money well spent, and that’s no blarney.
PS – As always, be sure to read the copyright page. Yes, the copyright page. Hockensmith’s so funny he can make even the normally boring legal stuff entertaining.