Hey, Edgar-- It's Dek!

"Hunting Sweetie Rose" by Jack Fredrickson
Reviewed by David Marshall James

The past few years bring to mind no better mystery than this one, which features the return engagement of Dek Elstrom of Rivertown, Illinois, a town full of graft on the fringe of a city famous for its corruption, Chicago.

Elstrom's a sort-of P.I. (that is, a legally uncertified one who hedges around the specifics of state qualifications).

Falsely accused of falsifying information during a trial, his reputation took a beating that feeble retractions have failed to restore. Once accused, guilty-- the American way.

Which isn't to say that Elstrom's ethics are impeccable. Basically well-intentioned and to-the-point, certainly, but not always above-board.

He's been slowly fixer-upping the unusual pile of stone that he inherited from one of the aunts who raised him. Intended to be a castle for his Prohibition-era enriched grandfather, it never got past the turret stage.

So, Dek resides and renovates in his turret, eating Ho Ho's and drinking thrift-store-brand coffee, although that wasn't always his design for living.

Before booze and bad press jumbled his life, he was married to a Chicago heiress. She has since been reeled in by her Daddy, who placed her in charge of his corporate philanthropy.

Dek became collateral damage, but he still maintains a few friends in high places, and he's about to need them, and to meet more.

Improbably-- well, par for the course given his lifestyle-- Dek is hired to investigate the demise of a clown who tumbles from the top of a Chicago building, a case that puts him in the orbit of uptown socialite Sweetie Fairbairn, who writes the sort of charitable checks for which Dek's ex strives.

However, Sweetie's life is about to fall apart faster than the clown's did.

Oh, she's a woman with a past, times a sizable factor, and people who know her and work for her start dropping like flies in a cropduster's cloud.

Her case isn't helped by her disappearance, and Dek seems increasingly suspicious, too, as he stumbles into one crime scene following another.

Illinois author Jack Fredrickson writes in a tempting, sometimes noir style, fond of eccentric characters, pithy patter, sarcastic comebacks, and retro (or timeworn) locales. The plot piques interest from the outset, quickly grabbing the reader full force.

Who knows the quality of what's headed down the mystery-novel pike during the considerable remainder of 2012; nevertheless, this one already stands out as a fine candidate for more than a few of the year's top prizes.