Book Name: Mordecai’s Ashes
Series: Larsson Investigations Book: 1
Author: Arlana Crane
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Suspense
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions in this review are of my own.
A big thank you to Arlana for sending me a copy!
Trigger Warnings and Content Warnings: Drugs, mention of drug related death, death, blood and gore, violence, guns
The PI field is worlds away from his old job!
His wife has left him and he’s out of a job, luck isn’t on Karl Larsson’s side and it doesn’t look like it’s picking up anytime soon either. He’s distant from his family aside from his sister who, while being a bit naggy, is halfway across the globe and still makes sure to check in on him from time to time. Even if her calls can occasionally be a little bit condescending, Karl still favors her as his favorite sibling, because after all, it’s either Tilly (Matilda) or his two brothers and he much rather a call from her than a call from either Jakob or Liam.
Having his life rolled downhill and currently living in the valley of it all, his future didn’t seem promising…at least until he suddenly inherits his grandfather’s detective agency from his aunt Matilda’s will. He’s shocked, because he doesn’t even know his grandfather!
But it was either this agency or working in Liam’s trucking business and Karl would rather eat a hornet’s nest than do that! Besides, it seemed interesting enough, even if he has no experience as a PI. With his previous job as an oil worker at the rigs, the detective world is a brand new world to him. His only resources are the file cabinets of records, invoices, procedures and processes, clients and contacts left over from the business’s previous owner. Now, at 27, Karl Larsson is the new owner of Abrams Investigations.
Taking on small cases initially (tracking down ex-partners gone poof with delinquent child-support payments and background checks), he later on hires his cousin, Kelsey, to help with the business. It’s just the two of them taking on small case after small case until he is hired by an old acquaintance and client of his grandfather to take a look at a drug smuggling case. With the matter being quite personal to his new client, Karl is both intrigued and excited, his first big job!
It’s not until shit hits the fan does Karl learn that he’s in way over his head, but at that point, he’s in too deep! With no options in backing out of this, it’s either forward or die!
Engaging with solid characters, I found myself flying through the book. This book takes off right away. There’s no dilly-dalling on how Karl inherits Abrams Investigations. He’s on a call with Tilly to accompany his mother to the lawyer to discuss Matilda’s will and bam, our MC goes from broke, jobless, and living in his sister’s apartment to the owner of a business.
The family in the book consists of Karl’s mother, who comes off as kind of cold to me(?), Karl’s sister Matilda (or Tilly), and his brothers Liam and Jakob. There’s also Aunt Matilda (Tilly’s namesake) who has recently passed and then there’s Mordecai, Karl’s grandfather who he’s never met, the previous owner of Abrams Investigations. With all of Karl’s siblings being pretty successful people (Jakob being a commercial real estate broker, Liam with his trucking business, and Tilly halfway through her 2-year teaching contract (teaching English in Beijing), Karl’s the odd duckling out after losing his job and wife. He’s pretty estranged with his family with the sole exception of Tilly and even she’s barely making it.
There’s always some form of obligatory love interest in these kind of books and when Karl’s cousin, Kelsey, is introduced as the main supporting female character, let me tell you the joy I felt…! Sure, nothing’s wrong with romance, but sometimes books that don’t need romance just always has that one love interest that always leads to that (minimum) one kiss scene. It’s refreshing. And speaking of Kelsey…
Smart as a whip, she is Karl’s younger cousin. While they haven’t really spoken in the last few years (her introduction scene is a whole “dang you grew!” “Well yeah I not 12 anymore, cuz 😒 ” moment), she is also one of the few that he’s always enjoyed being around besides Tilly. She helps him tend the office and hold down the fort when he’s away on jobs and is Karl’s brain to his drug-ring busting case. Her help was crucial early and Karl wouldn’t have made it as far without her. I really enjoyed her character.
Karl’s character is also written very well and you can see the pasture in him when trying to picture how green he is at this new job. He’s an ex-oiler worker and everyone in the family expects him to sell the business right away so that he can make enough profit to sustain him in his current down-on-luck situation. When he takes interest in Abrams, everyone, including Tilly, doesn’t expect him to make it far. The phrase “playing detective” is thrown around a lot as Karl not only struggles to understand PI work and keep the business going, but now he has to prove to his family that he means it when he said he was taking over. There are moments where I argued out loud with Karl because of something he did that was incredibly risky…but he doesn’t know better. He doesn’t have the mindset or caution of a man with years of detective experience. How could I be mad?
The other minor characters all have quite a bit life to them as well, even if some only get a flash moment in the book. You sort of get to know about Mordecai as Karl goes through past clients and cases (as well as from friends and family). You get to know Karl’s brothers who come off as very “All business, no need for friends” people. You meet Mordecai’s old friends, the downstairs bookshop owner, Percy, and his old client (and also friend) the reporter John Fullerton who is responsible for Karl’s first big case. John’s interest in this case is so passionate and this case is so personal to him, you just want to keep reading to see the reason behind the hatred.. There are plenty of other characters and some are a bit shady; you can easily tell who seems to be the bad guy in this book. Even as sketchy as they are, they’re written in a way that makes you feel almost sorry for them (ALMOST).
Besides the characters, the writing itself is also done nicely. Engaging, engrossing and captivating, the writing in this book is smooth. The words flow well and it’s easy to read. The plot is great as well. We waste no time in how Karl receives the business and it goes straight to business as he learns to run Abrams. While it does slow down (just a little bit) after he takes over, it’s mostly because he’s taking on mostly only small cases as he learns the rope of the detective role. It’s not long before we get to the big-juicy steak of the story. Even the slow moments are filled with getting to know characters. After all, you have to show the readers that Karl is new and it’s a pretty big leap from small delinquent payors and background checks to a major high-risk drug smuggling case (with, mind you, no supervisor to seek tips and help from…only…only cabinets of old files, his cousin and his wits to guide him).
After Karl takes on the drug case, the plot gets intense. It’s truly a “hold your breath” moment then because Karl is really in it and there’s no turning back from it.
My last few mystery thrillers have all been police procedural and the MCs are generally part of the state or government. It’s been a while since I read a PI book and the dangers of the job really shows (not that being a cop is any more or less dangerous). However, as a PI and with Karl not fully knowing the law, he takes major risks and he goes in alone with only his cousin knowing where he might be. There’s no reporting to an upper supervisor. There’s no “I need back up!” It’s Karl alone out there and Kelsey alone to direct him. Both are untrained and new to the profession and it adds to the thrill and danger factor.
A great book that is full of thrilling moments, you sit there in fear with Karl as he investigates this case. There are bar scenes and stealth scenes, there are scary moments and then there are head-thrown-back laughing moments. An enjoyable and smooth read, this book has well written characters and an engaging plot full of tension and breath holding moments. There’s a major twist in the end that I absolutely got a kick out of.
A great read, I give this book 5 cozy cups of coffee!