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Reviewed by Gary Stout for Readers' Favorite
Harry Starke may have an iffy nine-handicap while playing golf, but he certainly doesn't need any such numeric manipulation when it comes to the field of private investigation; there, he's definitely a scratch player. In Checkmate, the fourth Harry Starke novel in Blair Howard's series, what starts out as a heated round of golf with his father turns into a murder investigation when a well-known socialite is found dead in the river running alongside the course. Harry knows his already busy case load has just become a lot busier. Despite his extensive team being spread thin, Harry's ex-partner with the police department insists that Harry handle the case as a consultant for her and the Major Crimes Unit. After all, he's done it before and there are certain times and certain people to which Harry just can't say no.
Checkmate takes you on a twisty-windy path through the patrons and morals of an exclusive golf club, the people seldom being what they appear on the surface, and their goals infinitely more complicated than a simple round of eighteen holes. Harry isn't your typical genre-driven hard-boiled investigator, either. Sure, he likes his Scotch and has an eye for the ladies, though he is strictly committed to only Amanda, but there end any similarities with Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Although fighting against the same unsavory characters as his predecessors, Harry has yet to succumb to the burnout and cynicism of those crime fighters. While peeling back the layers of investigating the dead woman in the river, Harry soon finds himself with enough suspects to fill a foursome. Checkmate is a fast read with creative characters and a complex plot. If private investigators are your passion, then pick up Checkmate; Harry Starke won't leave you hanging.