Friday, May 31, 2019

Lost and Found in Harlem: A Ross Agency Mystery by Delia C. Pitts: Review

If you have been following me a while then you know what I am bout to say is typical and if you are new to my reviews here's an example of my random cray cray. I was asked by Delia Pitts if I would be interested in reading the third book in her ROSS AGENCY series and after reading the synopsis and an excerpt I was happy to take her up on her offer. The third book, BLACK AND BLUE IN HARLEM is a standalone story, however I'm that reader who just has to start from the beginning. I need the background foundation for characters, relationship dynamics, and honestly just from my own absurd FOMO when it comes to backstories. So long story short-me being who I am I ordered book one-LOST AND FOUND IN HARLEM  and I have absolutely no regrets!

LOST AND FOUND IN HARLEM is a well paced, strongly told story done in vignettes. I don't gravitate to short stories/novellas as a rule, and definitely not ones told in multiple vignettes; but Pitts laid out the beginning of Rook's stumbled upon escapades so enjoyably well that I have already ordered physical copies of books two and three for myself. I do read on my Kindle but when I find a story that is this engaging I want them sitting on my bookshelves as well.  

Pitts storytelling is tight and selectively detailed. She doesn't waste space on superfluous descriptions or dialogue. Pitts' writing is purposeful and I am here for it. I love to become immersed in long and sometimes rambling stories, that's not a negative for me, but even I have to admire when a writer manages to give a fully developed story with complicated and interesting characters in 118 pages. 

Rook is a down on his luck Iraq veteran living in a ramshackle building in Harlem when a suspicious fire turns deadly leaving him homeless and questioning what exactly happened. In following up on a clue he meets a father/daughter team who serves their community in a number of both tangible and intangible ways. Rook finds himself on the periphery of a dysfunctional but wealthy couple bringing unwanted gentrification to Harlem, a centenarian on his second life, an African immigrant with personal troubles, and don't forget the original mystery that kicked off the dominoes of Rook's troubles in Harlem: a deadly suspicious fire that also brought with it a detective that has taken a particular interest in Rook that he does not appreciate. YES, this all happens in a well organized way in 118 pages. AND Pitts managed to make me okay with not yet knowing how/why Rook ended up in Harlem and more importantly why he is such a mess. That's storytelling magic if you ask me. Delia Pitts, you have a new fan in me. 

If you are looking for a quick crime fix that will lead you to satisfaction pick up your first Delia Pitts story. 

P.S. You can read an excerpt of BLACK AND BLUE IN HARLEM on Delia's Website

When Shelba Rook’s home burns down, he realizes he has nothing left. What’s a jobless, homeless private detective to do? He’s feeling more than a little lost.

Shelba Rook’s “home” was in fact a room in a Harlem brothel. Not only does the catastrophic fire at Auberge Rouge take the few items he could call his earthly possessions; it ends up killing an innocent woman.

About the Author

(Photo & Bio via Pitts' website)

I've been enchanted with books from my earliest days; one of my first memories is of sitting on the floor in the golden motes of dust flying around the booklined porch my father used as his office. Second grade found me crafting a pastiche on the great Walter Farley novel,"The Black Stallion." I sold that story, with original cover painting, for .02 cents at our school's spring book fair. 

My writing took a turn from animal lore when I discovered Sherlock Holmes in seventh grade. Agatha Christie, Langston Hughes, Margery Allingham, P.D.James, Walter Mosely, Ralph Ellison,so many fine practitioners of detective and other fiction influenced me over the years. Perhaps the biggest single influence, however, was my long-standing love affair with newspapers. I worked for professional papers in the rough-and-tumble news town of Chicago since my late teen years. 

Pursuing a doctorate in African history and a career in the United States Foreign Service reinforced my interest in people, places, and writing. Though the settings were not quite so exotic as West Africa, my subsequent career as a university administrator took me to Texas, New Jersey, and right around the world recruiting international students and promoting study abroad programs. I jumped into the world of fiction writing through the stimulating and fun adventure of fan fiction. To date, I've published over sixty fan fiction stories since 2012, under the pen name Blacktop.

My wonderful husband, who's traveled this journey with me, has been a source of insight and common sense for decades. And our twin sons --smart, sensitive, and fun --are the inspiration for everything I do.


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