Reviewed by Peter Durantine
Staff writer, Office of College Communications, Franklin & Marshall College
Freelance journalist – New York Times, Reuters, Philadelphia Daily News
Just when you think a genre has been plucked of unique characters and compelling plot lines, a new detective novel comes along to show that the depth of hard-boiled crime fiction has yet to be plumbed. There’s still room for more flawed gumshoes with messed up lives.
The title character in “Jon Fixx,” by Jason Squire Fluck, has an unusual line of business, writing sweet love novellas about brides and grooms that they can keep and refer to for the rest of their lives. It’s not the kind of profession that should get anyone in trouble, but Jon Fixx finds a way, mostly because he has trouble dealing with his own life – his girlfriends don’t stay around for long, when they leave him it’s because they found someone else to sleep with, and he has problems with self-discipline and compulsive behavior.
Jon Fixx – and most everyone who takes a liking to him calls him by his full name – goes through life not sure where he’s heading, but he’s always willing to ride the currents to see where they take him. Often they take him into trouble, in part because he can’t always exercise better judgment.
The novel opens with a jilted Fixx stalking his lawyer girlfriend whose new boyfriend sends an FBI agent, a relative, to threaten Fixx unless he leaves his girlfriend alone. A distraught Fixx goes for a drive and ends up in a restaurant ladies restroom, where he sits in a stall to remember the time he and his girlfriend had sex in a public restroom, his lonely heart thoughts interrupted by a muscular security guard, Donovan, who befriends him.
As Fixx goes through life, making a mess of things for himself, he finds friends like Donovan who seem to understand him and want to look out for him. Those kinds of friends come in handy when he’s hired by a mafia don to write a novella for his soon-to-be-married daughter and that’s when things start to happen that send up red flags. He soon realizes there is another reason the don has hired him. He starts to investigate and is soon facing danger and death.
For a first-time novelist, Fluck weaves a good story. He has a strong grasp on dialogue, his characters have meat on their bones, and his humor is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s wit. When the mafia don’s bodyguard rescues Fixx from getting pummeled by a rather large piece of meat who is possibly dating one or both of the twin blondes that Fixx had encountered, the protagonist says with awe: “I had never seen fear up close, but staring into the giant’s eyes I saw how true fear manifested itself in the human body.” With those kinds of observations and his self-deprecating humor I came to like Jon Fixx, his repartee, and his friends.
Having read a fair amount of crime fiction, I found Fluck’s story unique to the genre. It wanders down paths that you’re not sure where they’re leading yet you want to keep reading to find out. You’re never disappointed, and that’s what good story-telling is all about. I hope to read more of Jon Fixx.