cover image My Brother’s Keeper

My Brother’s Keeper

Vaughn C. Hardacker. Skyhorse, $16.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-5107-1852-4

After a promisingly gritty opening, Hardacker’s sequel to 2016’s Black Orchid devolves into a run-of-the-mill crime novel. When the Rockingham County, N.H., sheriff asks PI Ed Traynor to identify a body, Traynor is stunned, though not surprised, that it belongs to his screwed-up brother, John, who was often on the wrong side of the law. John was shot in the head in a killing that appears to be a drug hit. Wracked with guilt, Traynor resolves to track down his brother’s murderer. His investigation is complicated by his attraction to his now-widowed sister-in-law and the prospect that learning more about John will only cause her more pain. Sure enough, a business card in John’s wallet leads Traynor to a nearby strip joint, where he meets the woman named on the card’s reverse side, who claims to have been John’s wife. Uneven prose (“Like the alluring sweet scent of a carnivorous plant, Traynor knew she was trying to lull him into a false sense of security”) doesn’t help. Hopefully, Hardacker will do better next time. Agent: Paula Munier, Talcott Notch Literary Services. (July)