Nick Merchant
Created by Chris Larsgaard

Here's one eye who makes sure you get what's coming to you. It's a whole new spin: high-flying private eye NICK MERCHANT has a speciality--he's an heir hunter. That is, he searches for a dead person's next of kin when no will exists, and in return collects a cut of the estate. Of course, the term "bloodsucker" comes to mind, but in his first recorded case, appropriately entitled The Heir Hunter, Nick rushes to reassure a potential heir by pointing to Merchant and Associates' listing in the Yellow Pages.

"Here we are--Merchant and Associates. Our firm is a completely legitimate, family-owned business. We've been licensed by the state of California as private investigators for the last twelve years now. Our reputation in the
field is excellent. If you'd like to check into us, you can call the local Better Business Bureau. I'm sure they would be happy to tell you all about us. I encourage you to do that if it will ease your mind."

He neglects though, to mention how gosh-darn attractive the firm is, what with Nick's "boyish, honest" good looks, and Alex Moreno, his beautiful partner. It sounds like a great premise, and the author, Chris Larsgaard, actually is a heir hunter with more than a decade of experience on the job, currently living in San Francisco.

But GAWD is this book dull! It just Ludlummed on and on and on, one chase scene and one narrow escape after another, until the alloted number of pages had been reached. Call me old-fashioned, but aren't thrillers supposed to be thrilling? Larsgaard never trusts his writing to speak for itself, so he insists on telling us over and over how his characters feel. Which might be just as well. Because if there is anything felt between Nick and Alex, you sure can't tell by their actions or their dialogue. I mean, why show, when you can jus ttell and tell and tell? There might be a good ripping yarn buried in here somewhere, about high-reaching government conspiracies, Nazi loot, dirty business tricks and political corruption, but it's buried under about a coupla hundred surplus pages. How the hell did this ever get nominated for a Shamus (in the Best First Novel category)?

A far better, or at least more entertaining take on the occupation might be Jimmy the Gent, a 1934 Warner bros. flick starring Jimmy Cagney and Bette Davis.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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