After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?
After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Should I try to make the story inspired by real events? Maybe…
I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys who were friends and decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life but seen through the eyes of lighthearted unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.
And, Below the Wheel was born.
Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the Summer of 1998.
Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden NJ. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement, especially the chief of detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.
Alex is the obsessive suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking some spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.
Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local newswoman Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But, the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden or Philly. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.
His partner Scott is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black, and leave the exciting stuff to the police.
The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent hard working woman but is trapped in a bad relationship with her abusive common-law husband Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction at one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous activities.
During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.
A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott is reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.
Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.
The boys work the case and it’s full of twists, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who’s doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?
You’ll have to read the book and find out.
Planned Release Date: June 22, 2021
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