This may have been my first Jack Fredrickson book, but it probably won’t be my last. HUNTING SWEETIE ROSE is the third in Fredrickson’s series featuring sometime investigator and full-time cynic Vlodek “Dek” Elstrom. He lives in a municipal turret, temporarily zoned residential, on the outskirts of Chicago in a place called Rivertown, rife with corruption and over-the-top situations.
For instance, one of Rivertown’s elders is being investigated for selling stale salad oil in bottles that had their labels falsified. Oh, and then there’s the case of the clown prancing around with his balloons on a rooftop, delighting all the passersby, until he leans out too far, his safety rope comes undone, and there’s one less clown in the world.
It’s a terrible accident. But of course, it’s not an accident. Elstrom is hired to look into the matter, and this begins his swift spiraling decline from somewhat upstanding citizen of Rivertown to chief suspect in a string of murders surrounding the very rich title character.
Fredrickson is excellent with his characters, giving Elstrom the gruff, wisecracking wise-ass attitude of many of our most favored heroes, and surrounding him with colorful and lovable supporting characters like his garish-shirted friend, Leo, or the news reporter who serves as his new romantic interest, Jenny Gale.
The dialogue and interactions between characters all seem true. Where the author bogs down a little is in plotting, which degenerates into an overcomplicated mess. Sure, it works out, and the reader is happy to have been taken along for the ride, but it’s a tangled unlikely web.
That said, the main character has enough force and presence to make that complaint feel minor, and to make you want to read another book in the series. I’ll look forward to the next one. Think of Fredrickson as similar to Ed Lynskey without the stylization, or to Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey without the truly outrageous bits. That’s pretty good company to keep. —Mark Rose