A REVIEW BY JIM NESBITT
BLUE PLATE SPECIAL: LEAN AND MEAN MAYHEM WITH WISECRACKS
Like a tasty meat-and-three plate at a Southern diner, there’s something simple and satisfying that sticks to the reader’s ribs in the straight-up way author Michael Ludden serves up his latest hard-boiled crime thriller, TATE DRAWDY.
This is a prequel to Ludden’s first crime novel, ALFREDO’S LUCK, the book that introduced readers to Drawdy as a loose-cannon, take-no-prisoners Miami-Dade County detective. That book was a sweeping and violent tale with a host of characters and a complex plot that portrayed the nasty politics of Miami’s Cuban exiles and captured the high and sleazy weirdness of Florida without diving into caricature.
In this book, Ludden writes a leaner more linear story about Drawdy’s earlier years as a young detective in Savannah, a rich boy from Atlanta who decided to become a cop instead of following the easier and more comfortable course his parents had in mind for him. Drawdy is still learning his trade from an older mentor, Jimmy Patterson, but shows flashes of the smarts, the penchant for violence and the instinctive full-bore pursuit of his quarry seen in the author’s first book.
He’s also a wiseass, the kind of guy who pisses people off just by walking into a room, then doubles down by being blunt and refusing to back down or compromise. There’s no go-along-to-get-along in Tate Drawdy and it gets him in early trouble with some corrupt cops on the force, providing one of the main threads to this violent tale. It also gets him shot at and beat up — a lot.
The other thread runs through the murder of Precious Gardner, a young black woman, picked up while walking home from the Piggly Wiggly by four drifters who toy and torture her before stabbing her to death. The drifters are led by a megalomaniacal psychopath named John Robert Griffin, who quickly singles out Drawdy for adversarial attention of the personal kind.
Throw in the double murder of a priest and his teenaged girl lover, Griffin’s escape from a doctor’s office and Drawdy’s pursuit of the killer to his hometown near Pittsburgh, where the young cop meets a crew of retired detectives who like to keep a hand in the law enforcement game, and you’ve got a rollicking tale with plenty of gunplay, suspense, ribald banter and plot twists that brings you to the final chapter way too soon.
Ludden has created a winning character in Drawdy. Pick up both of his books and hope he writes another one real soon.