Death Checks In (CrabbyPatty’s Review)

Title: Death Checks In (A Detective Heath Barrington Mystery #3)
Author: David S. Pederson
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Genre(s): Historical, Murder/Mystery
Page Count: 221
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

All Detective Heath Barrington and his partner, Alan Keyes, want is to get away for a weekend of romance, but they find murder instead when a missing tie leads them to the body of the peculiar Victor Blount, and Heath can’t resist the urge to investigate. Who killed Blount, and why?

Clues turn up around every corner, but what do they mean? The bloody “W,” the green spool of thread grasped in the dead man’s hand, the newspaper left at the doorstep: they all lead down a strange and winding road of mystery and danger. As Heath and Alan work together to solve the case, they encounter various and eccentric suspects, old friends, and a hostile Chicago Detective, Marty Wilchinski, who doesn’t like Milwaukee police involved in a Chicago crime. Forced to act on their own, out of their jurisdiction, they race against time to find the killer before Wilchinski files the case closed.

Detective Heath Barrington and Alan Keyes are in Chicago for a sightseeing weekend and encounter a crime while staying at the Edmundson Hotel. Store owner Victor Blount is killed and while the Chicago police believe this to be a random crime, Barrington is convinced it is premeditated murder and get involved in the case.

I enjoyed the first two books in the Detective Heath Barrington Mystery series – Death Comes Darkly and Death Goes Overboard – where in each story, the suspects are a ready-made group, i.e. family members brought together to an isolated country estate or people on a weekend cruise aboard a small steamer. In “Death Checks In,” the author needs to first gather a random group of suspects (the hotel’s assistant manager, a band singer and her partner, a female traveler staying at the hotel, etc.) and therefore the murder doesn’t occur until 40% through the novel.

The pace feels very slow until the murder mystery kicks in and then the story moves along nicely as the mystery (and the resolution) really held my interest. Where the book doesn’t work for me is in the area of character development of the main characters as well as the supporting characters. We learn little about Heath and Alan’s relationship and their dialogue feels very stilted throughout. Any sex happens off-page; that is not to say I feel the story needs graphic sex, but there is little tangible chemistry between the two and at times they read more like work friends than romantic partners. Finally, since both Alan and Heath are Milwaukee law enforcement officers, it just feels like a real stretch that a Chicago detective would let them have as much input into a case that is out of their jurisdiction.

While I enjoyed the mystery here, the lack of depth in the characters and the awkward dialogue throughout didn’t work for me. Also the pace of the story is elegiac until the mystery begins. 3 stars for “Death Checks In” and I am looking forward to the next Detective Heath Barrington mystery.

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Galley copy of Death Checks In provided by Bold Strokes Books, via NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review.


Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.  Frederick Douglas I distinctly remember that day in school when, all of a sudden, those squiggles on the page made sense and I could read. It has changed my life in ways I still cannot comprehend. My favorite M/M tropes are friends-to-lovers, murder/mysteries, amnesia, hurt/healing and historicals. Shifters, vampires, paranormal? Meh ... not in my wheelhouse, but I'm a sucker for a well-written well-plotted book, no matter the genre. Favorite authors includes Brandon Witt, Rick R. Reed, Abigail Roux, Jay Northcote, JL Merrow, KJ Charles, Lane Hayes, Marshall Thornton and so many more. A few "badges" from NetGalley: 100 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader