Henry Walsh Private Investigator Series, Book 1 • Gregory Payette • ★★★★
Dead at Third is the first book in the Henry Walsh Private Investigator Series. The sleuth is a former police officer who’s now the head of security for the Jacksonville Sharks, a (fictional) professional baseball team. The Sharks’ slumping star third baseman is found dead—and the star of the team is the main suspect.
The book is often a fun read. There’s some will-they-or-won’t-they attraction between Henry and Alex, a woman who’s also on the security team. The plot is twisty, and uncovering the victim’s past is often page-turning goodness.
I got the feeling, however, that Payette was still acquainting himself with his characters. I never got a good sense of how old Henry Walsh is—he’s got retired parents, and he doesn’t seem that far removed from college or his failed career as a police detective (which, I assume, we’ll find more about as the series goes on). And while quite a bit is made of his fondness for Jack Daniel’s, it isn’t that relevant to this book. One of the suspects, too—the victim’s twin brother—figures prominently, but, like Henry Walsh, he's difficult to pin down. In the early scenes, he seems successful and disdainful of Henry, but in later scenes it’s clear that he doesn’t have much money.
Those are minor squabbles, though, because Payette weaves a great mystery. The author lays out the clues neatly, and clearly defines the suspects’ roles. The red herrings are compelling, and it’s interesting to see Henry piece together the possible motives. The pacing is mostly solid, although there are a few spots where it seems like Henry is treading over old ground and the plot bogs down a little. But again, minor squabbles.
Quite often, authors get a better handle on their main characters as a series moves forward, and I’m hoping that subsequent books will round out Henry’s character more. A solid mystery that has me ordering the next book in the series.
—Paul Austin Ardoin