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Trace by Warren Murphy
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Trace

by Warren Murphy

Series: Trace (1)

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This is the first novel in the short-lived Trace series, which is actually a continuation of the shorter-lived Digger series, prompted by a change in publishing houses. Basically, the Trace series is the Digger series with all of the names changed. Other than that, it's the same setup, with witty alcoholic insurance investigator Devlin "Trace" Tracy (formerly Julian "Digger" Burroughs became Devlin "Trace" Tracy) working out of Las Vegas with his blackjack dealer/prostitute/sidekick Chico (formerly Koko) inadvertently solving murders while investigating potential insurance fraud cases for the Garrison Fidelity Insurance Company (formerly Broker's Surety Life Insurance Company).

This reboot/continuation second introduction (I'll stop obsessing on that now) has our man Trace dragged from Las Vegas to the wilds of New Jersey, where he is surrounded by elderly golfers, trombone-wielding barristers, mysterious hospital deaths, tangled will and insurance policy mischief, and the looming threat of a visit from his ex-wife.

Much of the novel follows your standard gumshoe whodunit boilerplate, including multiple sexcapades with attractive (and occasionally married) women, a never-ending cavalcade of red herrings, an anonymous beat-down by thugs in the second act, and the "Let me tell you how you did it" reveal at the end. Any stereotypical antics can be forgiven thanks to a less than predictable resolution that doesn't give itself away until fairly late in the story, and continuous level of humor throughout.

Going back to the Digger/Trace comparison once more - apologies - Trace, while still the veteran acerbic smart-ass, seems somewhat less irreverent than in his previous Digger incarnation. Trace comes off as more self-reflective almost to the point of brooding while obsessing about his life and relationships, whereas Digger's roving attention span led to more entertaining non sequitur. I haven't read the intervening Digger novels between Digger #1 and Trace #1, so it is possible that this is a progression of character throughout the series shift rather than a re-calibration of the character's personality. whichever one it turns out to be, the difference isn't enough to recommend one series over the other. Yet.
  smichaelwilson | Jan 11, 2019 |
BOTTOM-LINE:
Great intro to a great series
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PLOT OR PREMISE:
Devlin Tracy is a claims investigator working for an insurance company. The VP gives him a case to investigate -- a friend of the President of the company is in a sanatorium, and one of the other patients changed their beneficiary on their insurance policy before they died, and the doctor at the sanatorium got the winfall. The President is afraid for his friend, that he'll be pressured to do the same, and wants Trace to make sure there's nothing weird going on.
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WHAT I LIKED:
Warren Murphy was also creator of several other series, and while some of those were kind of pulp-style, this one is a full "standard" novel. Wise-cracking, determined, but not always the fastest to figure things out. Trace works hard, keeps poking until something shakes loose, and then grabs on and won't let go until whatever scheme falls apart. All the elements of the series are here -- drinking like a fish, sleeping with suspects, wearing a little frog pin that records conversations, and a bit of a blundering style that worms his way into lots of situations. There are sub-stories with drugs and potential lawsuits, but mostly it is just about Trace shaking things up.
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WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
He has a girlfriend, of sorts, and her portrayal in this one is more annoying than usual for the series. Plus she comes in near the end as a super-detective to help solve the case, but Trace was doing fine on his own. She helps him out, as she often does, but she was mostly superfluous for this outing.
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DISCLOSURE:
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor did I follow him on social media. ( )
  polywogg | Jan 14, 2017 |
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With love, for P.S., only happy endings.
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Frederick Plesser, 67, of 4252 1/2 Sellers St., Harmon Hills, died yesterday at Meadow Vista Sanatorium, after a long illness. Cause of death was given as a heart ailment.
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