When an entitled teen becomes the number one suspect after her teacher winds up dead, her elitist parents turn to LA’s eccentric, though brilliant, PI Charlie Waldo.
Still riding high on success after cracking a major, high-profile murder case in the last book, Charlie, who is back to living in civilization after previously attempting to live a quiet life in the woods with no more than a hundred possessions, originally meets troubled teenager Stevie Ross when the girl attempts to hire Waldo and his partner, Lorena Nascimento.
At the time, Stevie wanted help locating her brother, and claimed to be an orphan. That, of course, was a lie—something the fifteen-year-old does on regular occasion with impressive conviction. Instead, Charlie and Lorena discover that Stevie has two parents who are both very much alive, and, in fact, happen to be the producers on a semi-popular TV drama. Things take a turn, though, when their almost-client goes missing herself after a teacher, whom she admitted to sleeping with and was also rumored to be dealing drugs, is killed. Police like Stevie for the crime, but her parents don’t believe it, and neither does Charlie—who sets out to find her and figure out what’s really going on.
That quest takes Waldo and Lorena all across Orange County, where a slew of unsavory characters are waiting, and nothing is quite what it seems . . . making this the most difficult case Charlie has ever worked. And the most dangerous.
Together, Charlie and Lorena are the perfect couple, both privately, as their relationship strays from professional to passionate lovers, but also on the job. Waldo is the quirky, genius PI and she is the straight-faced investigator. Think Adrian Monk (portrayed brilliantly for eight seasons by Tony Shalhoub) with a combination of Sharon (or later Natalie, both who played his assistants) and Captian Stottlemeyer. Only instead of a loveable OCD-plagued detective hell-bent on finding his wife’s killer and avoiding germs, Charlie Waldo is obsessed with maintaining as few earthly possessions as possible, while frequently worrying about the size of his carbon footprint. Thus, he refuses to drive—opting instead to ride his bike or use public transportation, which makes navigating Orange Country infinitely more complicated.
While his quirks are slightly over the top, probably, Gould still manages to make his protagionist likable. The better word might be memorable—because Waldo’s way of life stands out as an identifiable trait readers can associate the character with, in the same way that Nick Petrie’s Peter Ash suffers from claustrophobia or how Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is afraid of heights. Those are two examples of countless star characters with “quirks,” which are often a requirement to help an author stand out among a crowded field, which Gould certainly does.
Now two books in, Howard Michael Gould has shown to be one of the freshest voices on the crime thriller scene in years, and his latest, Below the Line, is a fun, twisting read that proves his series has a long, bright future ahead of it.
Author: Howard Michael Gould
Series: Charlie Waldo #2
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.