Slim Hardy Mysteries, Book 8 • Jack Benton • ★★★★★
If you've followed my writing for a while, you know that I'm a big fan of Jack Benton's Slim Hardy Mysteries. Set in the modern-day UK, Slim is a former soldier from the Gulf War, trying desperately to escape the demons of alcohol addiction and distracting himself with complex murder cases as a private investigator.
The new Slim Hardy mystery has just been released—The Circus Lights. And once again, Benton has outdone himself with one of the best mystery books of the year.
The setup: Slim finds himself on a blind date with a woman who walks with a limp—and tells Slim the story of how her trapeze artist career was cut short by a nasty fall in the waning days of a failing circus. She suspects sabotage—and Slim, whose need for investigation rivals his need for drink, is drawn to the out-of-business circus like a moth to the flame.
The characters in this investigation are by turns charming, fascinating, or horrifying. Like a ringmaster, Benton keeps many acts in motion at once. Some of Slim's professional assistants make appearances for longtime readers of the series, but this book could stand on its own as well. By the time Slim uncovers two murders in the retirement home next to the land the circus rented, enough intrigue has been spun to ensnare the reader.
One of the interesting aspects of Benton's Slim Hardy novels in the lack of judgment in relating Slim's trouble staying sober. This novel begins to unravel the connection between Slim's addiction to alcohol and his addiction to solving unsolvable cases. It's a fascinating piece of sociological insight as well as being a solid mystery narrative. It was hard to put this book down—the eighth Slim Hardy mystery is a real page-turning delight. Highly recommended for mystery fans!