Hard Case by John Carson

Hard Case by John Carson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Three victims. Two men on the hunt. One killer to play the game.

Calvin Stewart has just retired from Police Scotland, but far from ready to sit in front of the fire with his slippers on. He has joined the small private investigation firm, run by a former colleague, Michael “Muckle” McInsh. Along with his friend, Finbar O’Toole.

Fresh off a case tracking down a runaway bride, they get a job to go north. A woman’s husband disappeared almost a year ago while on a golfing holiday with some friends.

Now, the body of a man has just been pulled out of the water. This man had identification on him. Just not his own. It belongs to the missing man.

The woman wants answers. Where is her husband? And why did this man have his identification on him?

Calvin and Finbar are sent to investigate after the police investigation stalls. But this might be a bigger job than even they can handle. They get their friends DCI Harry McNeil, along with DI’s Frank Miller and Charlie Skellett involved, and they uncover a crime far bigger than any of them could ever have imagined.

Calvin Stewart has dealt with many killers in his career, but maybe not one quite as dangerous as this one…

Calvin Stewart might have retired from the police force, but he and his friend Finbar O’Toole are happily keeping busy working for a mutual friend in his Private Investigations firm. Calvin and Finbar find themselves working to find the missing husband of their client even though he’s been off the radar almost a year. Another man has been found drowned – but with the missing husband’s possessions on his corpse. For a seemingly simple missing person’s case, things get complicated fast and Calvin and Finbar need to untangle the web before they get stuck in it.

Readers who have experienced John Carson before should have a general understanding of the sort of story this is. There is plenty of banter, memorable and engaging characters and – as with anything related to Calvin Stewart – a ton of bawdy but well-meaning humour and a plethora of words that would singe your grandma’s ears off. That said, you can also expect a fast moving and well woven plotline, more than a few interesting twists and turns and a warm-hearted, good natured, romping adventure. This book is all that and more.

While there are a number of cameos from various Scottish Police friends and associates, this book does focus front and center on Calvin and Finbar. They each have quite a lot of experience behind them and are settling into their new careers with vigor and ease. I thoroughly enjoyed the snippets of other characters – mainly from the DCI Harry McNeil series, but some of Carson’s other series’ as well – but this book really does mostly focus on Calvin and Finbar and the sleuthing team they are becoming together. I enjoyed their character and personal growth – both as a team and as individuals.

Readers looking for an enjoyable – albeit sweary – Scottish murder mystery should feel this really fits the bill. While Calvin isn’t a policeman anymore, decades of his training and previous experience lie here – as do his many connections and his overall outlook on solving the puzzle – so while this technically isn’t a police mystery it is a very close cousin of it. I actually liked the blending of PI work and police procedure – I feel Carson has written this in a highly believable, very organic kind of manner that makes it interesting but different; strongly believable and – with the banter and characters he is so well known for – thoroughly enjoyable.

This is the sort of story where you should get comfortable, grab a drink or three and settle in with for a fun and cozy weekend. I very much hope there will be more books in this series forthcoming. Highly recommended.

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