Authors of long-running mystery series have a terrible decision to make when they start writing. Do they age their protagonist in real time, or not? Sue Grafton' s Kinsey Millhone is still stuck in the '80s, without cell phones or laptops. Robert B. Parker's Spencer was once a veteran of the Korean War, until Parker stopped mentioning what war he was in so that Spencer wasn't too old to continue. Les Roberts chose to age his detective, Milan Jacovich. That's one reason The Cleveland Creep was a tough book to read.
Milan knows he's almost sixty. When a fellow detective urges him to take on an assistant, she tells him, "You're no kid anymore. You get hurt a lot. You've been shot, stabbed, beaten up - last winter you got a concussion and almost died in somebody's basement. You should take things easier." Over the course of his career, Jacovich's best friend was killed trying to protect him, and, due to this case, he loses a couple friends. It's no easier for readers of this series to watch Jacovich age than it is for him to do it.
When Milan agrees to look for a missing man on behalf of the man's mother, he doesn't know what he's getting into. Twenty-eight-year-old Earl Dacey lived at home, didn't have a job, and he turned out to be a pervert. Jacovich's new assistant, a young man nicknamed K.O., learns more about the porn industry in northern Ohio than he really wanted to know. When Earl's body shows up, a friend in the Cleveland police department, and an FBI agent encourage Milan to continue to dig into the porn business, while they look halfheartedly for a killer. But, Milan never was one to listen to authority, and he still owes answers to his client, even if her son was a sleazeball.
I learned way more about the porn film industry than I ever cared to know while reading this book. The Cleveland Creep wasn't really enjoyable, but I read it because Milan Jacovich was always Cleveland's version of Spenser. Spenser's creator died, and Milan's author took him into a gritty investigation in which someone else had to step in to save him. Roberts once said that he didn't want Jacovich to have a Susan Silverman. Instead, Milan has two sons who are grown. He's lost his marriage, his friends, has no close personal relationships, and, now, he's forced to take an assistant because he's getting too old to do what he used to do. The Cleveland Creep? Sad, just sad.
The Cleveland Creep by Les Roberts. Gray & Co. ©2011. ISBN 9781598510713 (hardcover), 264p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book to read and review.