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A Witness Above by Andy Straka

A Witness Above (2001)

by Andy Straka

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What’s the PI series that Edgar winners Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Steve Hamilton, and Rick Riordan read when they want the best?

This one.

Thirteen years ago, NYPD Detective, Frank Pavlicek quit the force after a controversial shoot-out that left an unarmed African-American teenager dead. The divorced father of a teenage daughter, Pavlicek now works as a private investigator and hunts with a trained falcon. While hunting, he discovers the corpse of a black, teenage drug dealer with ties to his daughter. Unable to ignore the connections to his family or the shooting that cost his career, he goes after the killer to find the truth, save his daughter …and free himself from the shackles of his past.

The first novel in the blockbuster Frank Pavlicek series. An Anthony, Shamus, and Agatha Award nominee.
My take....

Andy Straka until recently was another author I had never heard of. Brash Books obviously had because they have brought back his Frank Pavlicek mysteries into print, or at least made them available digitally. Straka wrote the first three of them between, 2001 and 2003 – A Witness Above, A Killing Sky and Cold Quarry.

A Witness Above opens with Frank, a detective working with his partner, Jake Toronto on an out of town stakeout. An emergency call comes through and the pair attend and get involved in a shoot-out which goes pear-shaped. The subsequent fall-out reveals the 14 year old kid Frank shot was unarmed.

Fast forward thirteen years and Pavlicek has relocated from New York to Charlottesville. His old partner Toronto is in the locality also, as is the now retired cop Cahill who was a patrolman involved in our opening incident.

Pavlicek is a private investigator and spends his time chasing errant husbands and the like. In his leisure time he indulges his hobby of falconry, something Toronto has introduced him to. Out on a training session with his bird – Armistead, the pair of them discover a rotting corpse on some land belonging to Cahill’s uncle. Before calling it in, Frank makes a cursory inspection of the scene – old habits die hard – in the young victim’s wallet is his daughter’s phone number. Frank removes the evidence.

His tampering becomes known before too long and Frank finds himself under pressure from the local and state police. His daughter gets locked up anyway for possession of major league drugs and Frank endeavours to help her, a situation not made any easier by her evasiveness. What was the connection between Dewayne Turner, our murder victim and gangbanger and Frank's daughter, Nicole? Having been divorced from her mother for some years there’s an estrangement between father and daughter. Frank feeling guilt over their lack of a meaningful relationship, goes into battle for her.

Straka throws a few twists and turns along the way and as such emphasises Straka’s sense of isolation. Is the local law corrupt? Who can he trust?

Interesting introduction to a new PI character for me. I do like this sub-genre. I think PIs have more latitude to bend the rules than the police. I’ll be reading more from Straka in the future.

4 from 5

Andy Straka has a website here.

I obtained my copy via Net Galley – Brash Books.
Read in August, 2015
http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08... ( )
  col2910 | Aug 10, 2016 |
Frank Pavlicek finds the body of a teenage boy when out hunting with his hawk. Familiar with bodies having been a homicide detective with the NYPD, he studies the crime scene. When he finds a wallet with the boy's ID and money, he is unnerved to see his daughter's name and phone number written on one of the bills. He needs to find out how Nicole is involved.

Nicole is arrested for drug dealing before Frank can talk to her about the boy's murder. Now Frank must solve both mysteries; who is dealing drugs and who is the murderer.

This is a suspenseful mystery the curves keeps on striking you from the main path. Best of all the cast of characters is well developed as the story progresses. The solution is a twist in the path. ( )
  Bettesbooks | Jul 31, 2016 |
This book was published to great acclaim in 2001, with Shamus, Anthony, and Agatha Award nominations for Best First Novel. Good for Mr. Straka but I don't get it. The falconry angle is interesting, but the characters and their behavior make no sense to me.

A teenage former drug dealer is murdered. Frank discovers the body while hunting and discovers evidence linking the victim to his daughter Nicole. In an unrelated incident, Nicole is booked for cocaine possession with intention to distribute based on circumstantial evidence. Frank's ex-wife, Nicole's mother, a very wealthy widow, thinks the arrest isn't important. (Is mama nuts???) Mama hires the family lawyer, who is a known drunk with no criminal law experience. The State prosecuting atty admits that there is no case. Yet the judge denies bail. Nicole is a high school senior from a wealthy step-family in rural Virginia! What kind of flight risk here? There is no way a minor child, especially a white girl, would be held without bail for a non-violent crime. The child protection people would be all over it.

There are loads of other off kilter elements and strange behavior by everyone, including Frank and his buddy Jake Toronto (who is curiously affectless for a sidekick). There is too much aimless dialogue for me.

The book contains several odd locutions and strange sentences. A woman's haircut is "somewhere between a crewcut and a bob". That's about 8 inches in my fave salon. One howler, that might be a Brash transcription error: "His bony fingers worked methodically to coil an orange power cord he'd been using to trim the hedge." I stopped reading halfway through.

I received a review copy of "A Witness Above: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery" by Andy Straka (Brash) through NetGalley.com. It was originally published in 2001 by Signet. ( )
  Dokfintong | Aug 28, 2015 |
This was an interesting story that holds promise for a great series to come. I liked Pavlicek as a main character. He's smart and determined, but also has some all too human flaws.

I know nothing about falcons or the sport of "falconry". While we're given some insight into this, that aspect does not overshadow the story. I was intrigued by Pavlicek's relationship with his bird, and I found this approach refreshing and unique. We never learn exactly how or why Pavlicek became a falconer, and I would have liked a little background on that to help me to better understand his character.

My main problem with this book was the plot's execution. We have a lot of characters, with several offshoots in the storyline. Consequently, the story's path forward often feels murky and convoluted. Paradoxically, the 'bad guy' feels glaringly obvious. I was not at all surprised by this "twist". In fact, I think I groaned when that was revealed.

I also felt that we were left with several loose ends. For instance, Pavlicek's ex-wife plays a vital role in their daughter's problems. I can't get into exactly what that role is without giving spoilers, but she does some things that put her daughter's future and life in danger. Yet this is never sufficiently explained. Also, Pavlicek himself does two highly questionable things in relation to his daughter and her predicament. Again, I can't say what exactly without giving away details. For me, though, two actions in particular seemed totally out of sync with his overwhelming concern and determination to work outside the legal box in order to do what was best for her.

The characters, as a whole, feel stereotypical. We have the nasty, money-hungry ex-wife, the problem teen, the black Christians, and the gangbangers. I would have liked some deviation from these stereotypes. Pavlicek and his friend Toronto are really the only characters who stand out as unique.

One last thing that caught my attention throughout is more an observation than a specific critique. I assume this book is a revised edition of an earlier release. Details, at times, feel like they were written prior to the digital revolution, and were overlooked during revision. Cell phones is one such issue. Through parts of the book, characters behave as if cell phones were not ubiquitous. I found myself wondering why Pavlicek would give out the phone number of a friend's home where he was staying. Then people couldn't find him, because he wasn't there. Then suddenly he had his cell phone, though he rarely used it and didn't receive calls that way in emergencies.

Despite what I perceive as the flaws, this is still an interesting read. I think Pavlicek could lead us on some fascinating adventures in the future.

*I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.* ( )
  Darcia | May 7, 2015 |
The first book in the popular Frank Pavlicek series. Falconer and private investigator Frank Pavlicek is hunting with his red-tailed hawk in the Virginia woods when he stumbles across a young man’s body and evidence that implicates his own teenage daughter. Soon, his daughter is in jail.

Frank’s past as a disgraced former NYPD homicide detective is coming back to haunt him. And his reputation and life are on the line…. ( )
  andystraka | Feb 6, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451202945, Mass Market Paperback)

Thirteen years ago, Frank Pavlicek left the NYPD under less than ideal circumstances. Now, the divorced father of a teenage daughter, he works as a private investigator in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he indulges his passion for falconry – and tries to live outside the shadow of his past.

Frank is hunting with his red-tailed hawk, Armistead, when he finds it. A teenage boy’s body – barely concealed behind a pile of brush in a part of the forest Frank recently visited with his daughter, Nicole. It’s a truly gruesome crime scene – one of the many things Frank doesn’t miss about working homicide in the big city.

But what Frank finds in the dead boy’s wallet is even more disturbing: Nicole’s phone number, scribbled in ink on the edge of a bill. He pockets the evidence and flees. Days later, his daughter is in jail. His past is coming back to haunt him. And his reputation – and life – are on the line…

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Frank Pavlicek left the NYPD under less than ideal circumstances. Now the divorced father of a teenage daughter, he's a private investigator in Charlottesville, Virginia. While hunting with his red-tailed hawk, Frank finds the body of a teenage boy with his daughter's phone number in his wallet, and soon his daughter is in jail.… (more)

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Brash Books

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