The Hunt–“Prose as tight as a garrote…”

“Call it Russ Belt noir. Call it a hybrid of whodunit and thriller. But above all, call it splendid — and this talented author’s best yet.”

That’s the assessment of The Hunt by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, with the review reproduced in its entirety below. And stay tuned for details on my visit to the Barnes and Noble in Pickerington, Ohio, on Aug. 5…

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With five prostitutes already dead at the hands of a serial killer in Columbus, Ohio, Jessica Byrnes’ brother Bill worries when he doesn’t hear from her for months and calls private investigator Andy Hayes.

So begins “The Hunt” (264 pages, Swallow Press, $26.95), the fourth installment in Columbus-based Associated Press reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins’ series featuring the onetime star quarterback for Ohio State who disgraced himself in a point-shaving scandal.

Andy takes the case and embarks on a search for Jessica, aided by his friend Theresa Sullivan, a former hooker who now works at a mission church. 

Get ready for a pinball ride through Columbus and environs as the two face danger from a vicious pimp and assorted other lowlifes, stonewalling from sex workers and tight-lipped cops, and graphic background stories from the victims of prostitution. Along the way, they encounter an ambitious congresswoman aiming for a Senate seat.

Rife with violence, “The Hunt” focuses on the scourge of human trafficking. But Welsh-Huggins also incorporates further development of Andy’s story as he tries to balance his work life with his duties to his two sons — one from each of his former wives — and his relationship with his current girlfriend.

Intelligently plotted, with prose as tight as a garrote, a strong stamp of place and a multidimensional gallery of characters, “The Hunt” excavates the filthy underworld of major cities.

Call it Russ Belt noir. Call it a hybrid of whodunit and thriller. But above all, call it splendid — and this talented author’s best yet.

“…this fine example of political noir…” #mysteries #andyhayes #TGIM

Capitol Punishment, “…this fine example of political noir, for which aficionados of smart crime fiction will vote with enthusiasm.” That’s the conclusion of the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the latest outing of a certain Columbus-based private investigator. It’s just in time for presidential political convention season, which gets underway today in Cleveland. It’s also today’s extended, get-up-and-go quote. Thank God It’s Monday!

To wit:

At the intersection of politics and reporting, relationships can be marked by friendliness and respect, tension and disdain, on both sides and within each.

But murder seems a bit extreme.

That’s what private investigator Andy Hayes faces, though, in “Capitol Punishment” (304 pages, Swallow Press, $27.95), the third thriller in Andrew Welsh-Huggins’ series featuring the Columbus, Ohio, resident, a disgraced former quarterback for Ohio State.

When freelance reporter Lee Hershey contacts Hayes to request bodyguard duty, Hayes reluctantly agrees and witnesses encounters between the journalist and several people connected with Ohio government.

One night, Hershey asks Hayes to meet him, but the investigator doesn’t show up, someone having slipped a tranquilizer into his beer at a bar. And when Hershey is found dead in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse, Hayes feels guilty.

State Sen. Ed Tillman is soon charged with the murder, and defense attorney Burke Cunningham calls on Hayes, who sometimes does jobs for him, to help investigate.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of the presidential campaign, in which Ohio Gov. Thomas Hubbard is auditioning for the vice-presidential slot on the Democratic ticket while trying to shepherd a school-funding plan through the state Legislature, in which Democrats control the Senate and Republicans the House.

Welsh-Huggins, who covers legal affairs for The Associated Press in Columbus, excels at plot, characterization and setting — Columbus itself becomes a primary character. His snappy dialogue and wry prose add to the fun, and his take on the sausage-making process that passes for governance reflects reality.

But don’t let the laughs fool you.  Darkness, complexity and a slew of suspects fill “Capitol Punishment” as more people die, threats fly and corruption and crimes that make Watergate look almost paltry are exposed.

Hayes’ beer isn’t the sole heady brew in this fine example of political noir, for which aficionados of smart crime fiction will vote with enthusiasm.