Monday, June 24, 2013

Telegraph Hill by John Nardizzi

Telegraph Hill is the first novel by John Nardizzi. In this volume we are introduced to Mr. Nardizzi’s private eye Ray Infantino who runs a successful office in Boston. The novel opens with a murder. A chinese mobster is gunned down by rivals on a hotel rooftop in San Francisco. In the next scene we meet Infantino. Nardizzi is obviously a fan of the great hardboiled detective novels. Infantino is Nardizzi’s addition to the genre. Infantino is hired to find a missing chinese girl. Seems like a simple case. Rich girl runs off, rich parents want to find her, they want it kept low key. Sounds simple. That is until Infantino leaves the lawyers office. The lawyer then makes a mysterious phone call and it looks like he is signing Infantino’s death warrant as soon as the girl is found.

The girl in question Tania Kong. In her time in America she has become a high priced escort in San Francisco. She was unlucky enough to have been on the site when the Chinese mobster was gunned down on page 1. She is on the run. The triad has dozens of killers on the lookout for her. Will Infantino be able to find her before the triads do? Will they both be able to escape whatever the client is planning?

In addition to the main story line Infantino is also working on a private matter. A few years earlier his girlfriend was killed in a bomb blast meant for him. The case has never been solved and he wants answers. He believes that the bomber is from a white supremacist group that he was investigating. Now he is back in San Francisco and he intends to finish this case.

This is a good first novel. The plot moves quickly and the dialogue is very good. Nardizzi tends to overdo the narration at times, the desire to get that classic noir feel sometimes feels a little wooden. The well written dialogue shows that the author definitely has skill and I have no doubt that over the course of future books this quality will only continue to grow and shine. Hardboiled fiction is difficult to write well. By its nature it can lead to excess or cardboard cutout characters and events. This is avoided with great skill. While a 250 page novel doesn’t give a lot of room to go into great character depth you do get a feel that these characters are real and you want to get to know them better.

Infantino is a likable character and he seems to have a good supporting cast. I definitely look forward to reading more novels about Ray Infantino. If you love hardboiled detective novels then this is a fun way to spend some reading time. 

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