Nasty by Bret R. Wright is the first book in the Nasty P.I. series starring Nate, who makes a living by snapping photos of adulterous spouses (available August 28, 2014).
“I’m Ignatius Jepson. I go by Nate. On the street they call me Nasty. Go figure.”
So begins Nasty, the story of Nate Jepson, private investigator and former Navy SEAL. He’s a guy just trying to make a living, deal with some of the terrible things he’s seen—and done—and eat burritos in peace. But then one night while he’s doing his version of meditation on a lonely beach, a stranger with a bag full of beef sticks runs into him, literally. Beef sticks and bullets fly everywhere, and Nate ends up having to deal with a dead body and the fallout of ticking off a gang boss, the cops and almost everyone he knows.
I tend to have a lot of luck, but fate pisses me off. It doesn’t care a whole lot about innocent bystanders. In fact, it stiff-arms them out of the way to get at whatever caught its attention in the first place. I seem to get more than my fair share of the shoving, too. Frankly, I have a problem with that. It’s my own fault I guess, but that’s a hard thing to remember when you’re standing by the passenger door of your Subaru inspecting a hole in the window and a corresponding hole in your passenger’s head. It’s even harder to remember when the other side of that hole is dripping down the side of your face.
I’ve had some issues in the past with first books in series. The author is breaking in a new character, and there’s a lot of set up and back story to cram into a limited number of pages along with telling the story. Here, all of that stuff is woven in with the story. I never felt like the author stopped the action to give me what I needed to know.
With a PI story I expect—or at least hope for—an interesting crime to solve, a lot of action, maybe a little romance and, if I’m very lucky, some snappy dialogue. Nasty delivers all of that along with a lovely dose of humor. You see, Nate is a smart-ass. Not in the annoying, put everyone and everything down way. He’s smart and it comes through in his humor.
Most of Nasty plays out in Seattle, with a quick jaunt to Portland. The atmosphere lends a nice backdrop to the story. Nate’s office is in the Capital Hill area on the third floor of a four-story apartment building that’s been converted to office space. But he lives in a small town outside the city proper in a gated condo community. Not what I expected, but it worked. It says this isn’t your average P.I.
The people Nate allows into his life set him apart as well. Jeff was in the SEALs with Nate and is now in law enforcement, but their bonds go back to childhood. Peggy, Jeff’s wife, is another childhood friend. They grew up together, look out for each other and can be brutally honest when it’s necessary. Sometimes when it might not be. They help add some context for who Nate is now and are part of giving us his back story.
Perhaps my favorite character is Janis, Nate’s neighbor in the condo complex. She’s a middle-aged hippie who offers Nate tea, sympathy, and surprisingly good advice. Just because she uses sandalwood oil and holds New Age ideas doesn’t mean she’s a dingbat. Here’s how Nate describes her.
People like Janis are pretty rare in the world. You could run your Camaro over her garden, throw salt in her fish tank, then pipe polka music into her house, and she’d forgive you if you told her you were sorry about it. I don’t think she’s gullible so much as she’s simply an old soul who finds beauty and kindness in almost everyone. Or maybe it’s the fallout from having followed Timothy Leary’s advice for the better part of her formative years. Either way, she’s a gem.
It’s little details like this that make the difference, and Nasty is full of them. The transoms in his office building, Lyle the landlord and his television viewing habits, Phred the garden gnome—the fact that a P.I. has a garden gnome. All of these things come together to build a rich, well-rounded world for Nate to live in. And it's a world I can’t wait to visit again.
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Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.