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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Stein & Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 1: American Nightmare by Michael Panush



The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 1: American Nightmare by Michael Panush
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (254 pgs)
Heat Level: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Water Lily

Morton Candle is a tough guy.

He grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, dodging from mobster-ruled neighborhoods to reform school before the army snapped him up and sent him to Europe to fight Hitler. That’s where he met Weatherby Stein, the scion to one of the greatest occult families of Europe. Weatherby and his parents were being held prisoner by the Nazis, forced to use their supernatural knowledge to aid the Third Reich’s war effort.

Morton Candle got Weatherby to safety, but the kid’s parents didn’t make it.

Now it’s the 1950s.

Weatherby’s a teenager, with his father’s knowledge and a chip on his shoulder from the indignities of the modern world. Morton bumps into him again and they decide to go into the only business they can – paranormal private detectives.

This time, Weatherby and Mort have cases that will take them from a vampire’s decaying mansion to the mob-controlled streets of Havana. They’ll take on roadside attractions gone wrong, hordes of the living dead, and ride against the devil in a high speed car race to the death.

Between them, Weatherby and Mort have a small arsenal and a deep knowledge of matters arcane and bizarre. They’ll need brains and brawn to survive in a world where horror, action and hardboiled noir come together in a cataclysmic mix.

Move over Mike Hammer and Sam Spade, here comes Morton Candle. If you like 1940’s/1950’s detective stories, you are going to love Michael Panush’s The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 1.: American Nightmare This is book noir with a paranormal twist. The bad guys are frequently monsters—literally.

Written as a chapter book, with one case per chapter, this is marketed as a Suspense/Mystery, but I think the real target audience is young adults, especially boys age 10 and up, depending of their reading level. As a mother of boys, I know how rare it is to find a good “boy book”--something featuring boys that's exciting enough to hold their interest but not too graphic to bother their mother. The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 1 has monster/comic book style violence that's perfect for this age group. I think my thirteen year old will love this. The fact that each chapter comes with its own “cover” adds to its appeal and the young adult feel of this book.

My only complaint is character development. Because of the presentation—separate stories for each chapter—there was no particular chronology and therefore, no character growth. If you read each story as a tale in itself, this isn’t too objectionable. But if you read it as a novel, it may bother you. I don’t think it will bother my son at all.

It’s a credit to Mr. Panush that, while reading, I kept “seeing” the scenes in black and white. If you’re a film noir fan or have a son you want to entice into reading, you might want to pick up a copy of The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 1: American Nightmare.

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