People who have read Michael Koyta’s debut, The Night I Said Goodbye, feel the need to recommend it to other private eye readers. I know this because it has been recommended to me often. It won him the St. Martin’s Minotaur/PWA First Private Eye Novel Contest at age twenty-one. When Michael came out to Noir At The Bar earlier this month, I finally got around to reading it. Now, I’m recommending it.
The book introduces us to Lincoln Perry. In his late twenties, Lincoln is younger than most world weary PIs, but he’s gone through a lot. Having to leave the Cleveland Police Department in disgrace, he bought a gym and disappeared from the world. Through some goading, he finally started an investigation firm with Joe Pritchard, a retired cop. Both Joe and Tracy, a reporter friend, back Lincoln up on cases, as well as keep him on track as he engages with life again.
The case Lincoln takes in Tonight I Said Goodbye is both classic and unique. A fellow investigator’s death has been ruled as a suicide, presumed to have been committed after he murdered his missing wife and daughter. The man’s father thinks different and hires Lincoln and Joe to find his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The trail involves an extortion plot with the Russian mob, more than a few moral dilemmas, and an interesting take on justice.
What makes the story work, as in all his work, is Koyta’s sense of character. He makes it the source for mood, style, even plot at times. He uses his experience as an actual private investigator to describe the attitude one has at working on a job more than the detail of procedure. The relationship Lincoln has with Joe feels lived in and believable and provides a great deadpan banter between them. It’s a humor that reflects their experience of being cops together.
Tonight I Said Goodbye was Michael Koryta’s first step in a voice that has never stopped growing. He wrote three more Lincoln Perry books, then moved on to acclaimed stand alone thrillers, many with a supernatural bent. He’s won well earned praise and comparisons to Lehane and Pelecanos with his latest, The Prophet. He has developed an amazing body of work in less than a decade. I hope he can come back with that maturity and revisit Lincoln and Joe.