J.J Donovan

Created by Micheal I. Leahey

J.J. DONOVAN is an unlicensed, Manhattan-based "private consultant" who takes on cases from clients who want to avoid undue legal interference. Despite his extra-legal status, Donovon has a strong sense of justice and will go out of his way to help the underdog.

When we first meet him in Broken Machines (2000), the first novel in an inevitable series, Donovan is helping a social worker acquaitance protect a ten-year old boy whose prostitute mother was murdered. At the same time, Donavon gets hired by the chairman of a ramshackle manufacturing company who is convinced that his partner is defrauding him. Of course, Donovon eventually finds a connection between the two cases.

I found this novel to be okay but nothing really special. The plot and setting are appropriately hard-boiled, but Donovan himself was to be a bit too square-jawed and forthright to be believed, like Captain Marvel slumming in the worst parts of Brooklyn. Frankly, I found him a bit bland and self-satisfied. I realize that the tortured angsty P.I. is a bit of a cliché, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to give Donovan a few rough edges to distinguish him from a million other P.I. characters out there.

Another problem I had with the book was the "quirky" supporting characters: His genius partner is Dr. Boris Mikail Koulomzin, a 300-pound Russian economist who hardly ever leaves his apartment. Nevertheless, the guy somehow can come to great deductive leaps simply by listening to the facts of the case. Sound familiar? The character is the closest to a blatant rip-off you can get without the executors of the Rex Stout estate coming after you with a band of lawyers.

The rest of the supporting cast are a similarly contrived band of "lovable" eccentrics. It was all so adorably cutesy, I nearly puked.

Yet, despite all that, the author somehow does managed to come up with a gritty, twisty story underneath all that artifice. If you can get past the cute factor, you might concievably enjoy it.

The author, Michael I. Leahey, is the Director of the Office of Clinical Trials at Columbia University/New York Presbyterian Hospital. He lives in Westchester with his wife and two children. Broken Machines has since been followed by The Pale Green Horse in 2002, but the series was cut short with the death of the author the following year.


  • "The layers of muck and mire seem endless as Donovan uncovers one loathsome scheme after another... Justice finally triumphs in a clever ruse hatched by Donovan and his friends. Readers will be eager for more adventures of this engaging PI and his compatriots"

-- Publishers Weekly on The Pale Green Horse


Respectfully submitted by Bryan English (2002), with special thanks to Eagle Eye Phil.

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