"Now when evening came, He was alone there." -- Matthew 14:23
Don't start this series with Alone: Go back and read Frames first, the initial book in the Valentino series.
I'm a big fan of Loren D. Estleman and picked up a copy of Alone on the strength of that liking. Utterly charmed by the story, I pulled my reading temporarily to a halt mid-way through and headed out to find Frames. The back story for Alone seemed just too good to be true. I had to find out more. I'm sure glad that I did.
I won't share any details. That will rob the story of its charm. Mr. Estleman can tell Valentino's story much better than I can hope to do.
If you are looking for an action thriller with a hard-boiled detective in a noir style, Alone won't appeal to you. But if you have a fondness for Hollywood, the history of the movies, the silent movie era, and a romantic mystery filled with outrageously good humor, Alone will charm you for sure.
On the surface, Alone can feel like fluff . . . but beneath the almost self-satirical humor lies a delightful plot, a gag environment, and a Keystone Kops-like approach to detection that fits closer to Stephanie Plum than to Sherlock Holmes.
Be warned that the murder mystery is simply there to move the plot along. If you like difficult whodunits, this book also isn't for you.
To me, the humorous mystery is the most difficult kind of book to write. Mr. Estleman carries it off like the pro that he is. He's having so much fun with this story that you cannot help but smile at the plot and in his obvious pleasure in writing the book.
If you have ever been hassled by a building inspector, you'll especially like this book.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.