Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus by John Hegenberger is a collection of four short stories, all of which contain the word “ache” in the title. The common element in each story is Eliot Cross, the main protagonist who’s a P.I. and the owner of the modest Cross Examinations investigative agency in Columbus, Ohio. Eliot is more or less your typical world-weary, laconic man’s man detective with a streak of chivalry and a gut instinct that holds him in good stead more often than not. The first short story is called Headache, where Eliot is called in when a dead body turns up electrocuted inside a used car dealership; the second is Heartache, where Eliot is retained by a senator to find her missing brother; Neckache, where he investigates the death of a comic book curator at a rare comic exhibit; and finally, Backache, where Eliot gallantly comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress whose purse is stolen in a convenience store. Each of these stories is set in the eighties and Eliot Cross more or less uses the James Rockford method of detecting – where common sense and an attention to detail help solve the case, a set of reliable wheels is an absolute necessity, and the occasional use of fists is considered an occupational hazard.
It’s clear that John Hegenberger is a fan of this genre of back-to-basics private investigating. Cross Examinations’ protagonist is intelligent without being intimidating, a gentleman where necessary, but certainly no pushover for a tight sweater and a set of baby blues and, most important of all, not afraid to jump into the fray where necessary, even if it means a risk of personal injury. Hegenberger writes well and although his stories are vivid, they are by no means overly violent. Cross is forced to rely on basic detecting skills and stakeouts to further his investigations, which provides a refreshing change from the ever-present computers, smart phones and DNA analysis available to today’s detectives. And as with James Rockford, his seventies counterpart, Eliot Cross is usually persona non grata where the cops are concerned. It’s nice to see that some things remain consistent in the detective genre! Cross Examinations is a solid read, much like the main protagonist himself.