“Tough, buff, smart and witty.” That might be how our dog thinks of himself when snoozing the day away chasing mountain lions in his dreams. But it’s also the conclusion that Reviewing the Evidence draws about my Columbus private detective, Andy Hayes. RTE calls Hayes’ latest outing, Capitol Punishment. “a winner.” To wit:
PI Andy Hayes is hired to protect a journalist who has made a few enemies, a job he fails to complete, then finds himself trying to solve the journalist’s murder.
Private Investigator Andy Hayes, always short of cash, takes on the job of protecting Lee Hershey, a journalist who has angered a number of people in the Statehouse in Columbus Ohio, It is 2016 and the Democratic presidential candidate is considering Ohio Governor Hubbard as a running mate. Ohio has always been considered THE swing state in Presidential elections. Hubbard is hot for the post, but his career hangs on the passing of a school-funding bill in a house that is controlled by the Republicans.
Hershey knows a great deal too much about how tainted everyone involved in the passage of the bill is, hence his need for muscle. And Andy (whom Hershey insists on calling Woody – an in-joke for Columbus readership) is the man for the job. Andy is an ex-football quarterback at Ohio State University, who dropped the ball in a shady act twenty years ago. But he is tough, buff, smart and witty. And he knows he will spend the rest of his life expiating his sin against both OSU and the Buckeye-crazy town. He is also trying to make his third potential marriage happen. So he is hard working, trying to keep his pants zipped and to be true to his word. Can you expect more from a noir hero?
When Hershey turns up dead on the floor of the Statehouse, Hayes has once again dropped the ball for not being there. It wasn’t Hayes’ fault but he still feels pretty guilty. There is a cast of suspects, all politicos with pretty good reasons for murder and it is up to Andy to do the work sorting all this out. Clues are few and far between and it isn’t until Andy becomes the killer’s potential victim that the pieces fall in place.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins really knows his stuff. As a legal affairs reporter for AP he understands complex issues like Ohio’s swing state status, how education bills push everyone’s buttons, whether it is the rural poor, the entitled middle class, the Charter School Advocates or the anti-Abortionists. Welsh-Huggins has written about how capital punishment is such a big deal in this trendy, foodie capital city. He is also savvy enough to realize how popular a book about Presidential politics could be during an election year, especially this 2016 election year.
And he also understands the darker places of the human heart. CAPITOL PUNISHMENT is a winner, and if you know Columbus, you will have fun following Andy Hayes through his city ramblings as he tracks the killer to the top of the groin-vaulted cupola of the Statehouse.
§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.