The Hammett Hex
A Book Collector Mystery, Book #5
By Victoria Abbott
Author’s website: www.victoria-abbott.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The national bestselling author of The Marsh Madness takes rare book collector Jordan Bingham on a trip to San Francisco—home to Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes—where nothing is as it seems.
On a getaway to the City by the Bay, book collector Jordan Bingham becomes entangled in a mystery with more twists than Lombard Street…
Jordan has been able to swing a romantic trip to San Francisco with Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker on one condition—she must return with a rare copy of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest for her irascible employer, Vera Van Alst. For his own part, Smiley is full of surprises. He’s a Dashiell devotee himself—excited to be in the city of Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes like Sam Spade and the Continental Op—and also announces he plans to visit his previously unmentioned estranged grandmother, who lives in an old Victorian on Telegraph Hill.
But the trip goes downhill fast when Jordan is pushed from a cable car and barely escapes death. And when a dark sedan tries to run the couple down, it’s clear someone’s after them—but who? Just like in Hammett’s world, nothing is quite what is seems.
When it comes to in-depth plotting, Victoria Abbott is a master of learning from techniques of earlier great mystery writers. She then stirs in unique, eccentric characters and seasons it liberally with seemingly unrelated events. The result is a full-flavored series, in which The Hammett Hex is the 5th offering.
The Hammett Hex takes place in San Francisco, where Tyler (Officer “Smiley” Dekker) has taken Jordan for a week’s vacation from their engrossing jobs in Harrison Falls, New York. Fans of Jordan’s boss, Vera Van Alst, will miss the tart drama she brings to Jordan’s days as we only see Vera briefly when she tries to deny Jordan a week away. Vera finally ‘allowed’ her to leave if Jordan will return with a rare copy of Hammett’s ‘Red Harvest’. Jordan and Tyler seem to attract drama wherever they go, however, as there is no end of unusual events while they are there.
After they arrived, Tyler tells Jordan one of the reasons why they are in San Francisco – other than that it is the stomping grounds of his favorite writer, Dashiell Hammett. Tyler has been in contact with his paternal grandmother who has always regretted the rift in their family that kept her away from him for decades, especially now that her second husband passed away. His father remained stubborn and refused to allow contact between Tyler and Gram…at least until his parents cut off contact with Tyler.
Gram has a live-in housekeeper, Zoya. Think of a Russian version of Vera without the huge home, literary collection, or cash. Gram also has nieces from her 2nd husband’s side, Clara and Janet and their adult children, Jessica and Josh. During their stay, she hopes to get them together with Tyler and Jordan so they could meet. She also obtained a sweet pug, Asta, due to Tyler’s sharing with her about Walter, the pup belonging to Jordan’s Uncle Lucky and his bride Karen; Gram even named Asta after the dog in another Hammett classic that was one of Tyler’s grandfather’s favorites. One thing Tyler did that Jordan was totally unprepared for was introduce her as his fiancee to Gram; Jordan diligently attempted to deflect any questions about when they planned to wed and how she felt about children.
There are several unsettling, seemingly unrelated occurrences that challenge their carefree days. One was that Tyler and Jordan almost were hit by a wildly-driven Prius, another when Jordan was pushed off of a moving cable car by an unseen person. Others include their hotel suite was vandalized, a home invasion occurred at Gram’s home, a dognapped pup, and a disappearing bookseller. There were even more before Jordan uncovered some interesting family background and thought through who could be responsible for the situations.
Even though I missed the Signora at the Van Alst home in this novel, the new characters in The Hammett Hex were unique and interesting. Thankfully, while missing the good cat/ bad cat pair and Walter the Pug, the author provided us with Asta the Pug who seemed to adore Zoya, but Jordan quickly won over the adorable pup. Jordan is as sharply intuitive wherever she is, whether at Vera’s or in San Francisco. For the first time the reader is treated with a rare, relaxed Tyler who is not in the midst of cases in which his friendship with Jordan could be seen as a conflict of interest. I enjoyed getting to know Tyler while he was ‘on vacation’, for as much as a cop could ever be on vacation…especially when bullets begin to fly.
The plot is exciting, with enough twists, turns, a red herring or two and even a visit from one of the uncles to keep things interesting! The Hammett Hex definitely grabbed and kept my attention; I was barely a step ahead of Jordan – only briefly – and quickly got lost again. One thing I am convinced of is that Grams is the kind of person that makes facing Vera Van Alst to request an unpaid vacation from worth the battle. The denouement was classic fun seasoned with suspense and excitement which I enjoyed tremendously! The end was satisfying with all loose ends tied up; I am already looking forward to the next in series. I highly recommend The Hammett Hex to fans of Victoria Abbott’s, cozy mystery aficionados who like well-written novels with layers of mystery and fun.