Thursday, March 04, 2010

Drink the Tea by Thomas Kaufman

Without knowing the competition, I would have voted for Thomas Kaufman's debut novel, Drink the Tea, to win the PWA Best First Novel Private Eye Novel Competition. He offers an unusual new character, a private investigator who was a foster child, an interesting search with few clues, and one of my favorite cities, Washington, D.C., as a setting. For me, these are all satisfactory elements for a debut novel.

Willis Gidney really doesn't know who he is. He's now a private investigator, but as a boy, he was just another homeless kid on the streets of Washington, D.C., sleeping under bridges, and trying to get money illegally from the Metro. When he was caught doing that, he was picked up by the police. It was a police officer who named him after the cops who arrested him, because Willis never even knew what his name was. Willis is a haunted character, haunted by his lack of knowledge, his actions as a kid trapped in the juvenile justice system, and haunted by the death of Captain Shadrack Davies, the police officer who named him, and took an interest in his life.

Because of his own lack of knowledge about his past, he agrees to help a friend find his daughter. Steps Jackson heard he had a daughter, who should be a grown woman, and he wants to find Bobbie. There's no good place to start with that investigation, but, after calling in a few favors, Willis ends up on Capitol Hill. And, that's when his case suddenly takes a weird twist, when someone shows a little more interest than a simple search for a missing person would warrant. Anyone but Gidney might quit when offered a high-paying job, threatened, and mugged. He even ended up in jail, but by then, the escalating deaths have made him determined to find out why someone doesn't want him to find Bobbie Jackson. There's so much more involved when political corruption and money come into play.

Willis Gidney's progress is painful to witness, as he patiently searches for his friend's daughter, while remembering his own childhood. Once in the system, he perfected his skills. He learned to defend himself, tell a good lie, and provide a little pressure in the right places, all skills that help him as a detective.

Drink the Tea introduces a sympathetic detective who took an unusual path to get to his present life. And, Kaufman reveals corruption and crime in D.C., at all levels of life. The Washington setting is carefully drawn, illustrating the contrasts in appearances, but the corruption that can be everywhere. Kaufman, an award-winning motion picture director and cameraman, brought his skill at seeing the whole picture, to a successful crime novel. Drink the Tea deserves it's award for best first private eye novel.

Thomas Kaufman's website is

Drink the Tea by Thomas Kaufman. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312607302 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure: My copy was sent by the publisher, in hopes I would review it.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think I'm in the mood to read about DC corruption right about now! :) For some reason I haven't come across a good PI book for a while and this sounds like a winner. Thanks!
Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. I hope it fits the bill for you.

Mason Canyon said...

This sounds like it's loaded with everything you could want in a great read. Thanks for introducing me to this author and an intriguing new book.

Kay said...

Lesa, this one sounds very good. I've added it to my wish list. DC corruption. Who knew? :-)

Lesa said...

My pleasure, Mason! I love to introduce new authors.

Lesa said...

Very good, Kay! You started my morning off with a big smile. Love that. Who knew?

Joe Barone said...

I am glad to read your review of this book. I have it ordered to read. What I read about it fascinated me, and your words made me even more anxious for the mailman to come.

Lesa said...

Great, Joe! I'm glad my review enticed you, rather than discouraging you from reading Drink the Tea. I hope you like it as much as I did!

le0pard13 said...

This one is certainly getting a buzz of late in the book blogosphere. Thanks for your fine review, Lesa.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Michael. I didn't even know there was a buzz until I read it on DL.