Cover Image: The Dead Beat Scroll

The Dead Beat Scroll

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Member Reviews

The Dead Beat Scroll is the 7th August Riordan mystery by Mark Coggins. Released 16th Sept by Down & Out, it's 288 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a very well written PI story set in modern San Francisco (despite the manual typewriter on the cover and the 'vibe' of the book). The author has an intimate familiarity with the setting, in fact the verso chapter headings are full page B&W photographs (apparently taken by the multi-talented Coggins). The plotting and story arc are precise, controlled, and well orchestrated. It's fast paced and action filled. This is a PI novel in the proud tradition of Chandler, Hammett, Runyon, and the rest.

I read this one as a standalone and it works perfectly well, with one huge caveat. There's a massive spoiler on literally the first page of the book which will overshadow the first books if one is planning on going back and reading the earlier books afterwards (I am).

This is a good one for readers who love old school gumshoe PIs which hearken back to the rain-slicked mean streets of 1940s black and white cinema. There are even punch ups between the protagonist and assorted bad guys and our guy comes out on top, bruised but unbowed.

I really enjoyed this one and have sought out the earlier books. Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, the first 5 books in the series (but not this one or the previous one) are available to borrow and read included in the KU subscription.

Four stars, solidly entertaining. The photos were a nice bonus, beautiful work.
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The Dead Beat Scroll is an action filled book.  Its not my usual read but I liked it.  The story flowed well and has an interesting cast if characters.  I liked it very much.
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The Dead Beat Scroll owes a great deal to Humphrey Bogart’s famous film noir, The Maltese Falcon. It is set in contemporary San Francisco, but private detective August Riordan is old-school and set in his ways. His loner techniques have served him well professionally. Riordan hasn’t lived in San Francisco for five years, but his former fiancée/secretary, Gretchen, summons him back to track down Chris Duckworth for her. Chris being Riordan’s “best friend and sometime assistant.”

After Riordan left the City by the Bay, Duckworth moved into Riordan’s apartment “on the corner of Post and Hyde.” Each chapter of The Dead Beat Scroll opens with a black and white photograph of old Bay Area buildings, locales, and vistas. It’s a clever way for those not familiar with the scene to visualize the plot.

Riordan crashes at Chris’s place after he gets back to town. A phone call wakes him up.

The blurry characters told me three things: I was still drunk. It was two twenty-three in the morning. And someone with a 415 number I didn’t recognize was calling.

 

I swiped my finger over the touchscreen to answer. “Riordan,” I tried to say, but it came out like a sea lion clearing phlegm.

 

“Riordan?” repeated the caller.

 

“That’s what I said. Who is this?”

 

“Kittredge.”

 

Kittredge. Lieutenant “Smiling Jack” Kittredge. That showboating asshole from SFPD Homicide was at least part of the reason I’d thrown in the towel on my PI business and left the city.

Kittredge tells Riordan to meet him at a crime scene: “a rub-and-tug place called Golden Fingers.” Kittredge knows why Riordan came back to town and tells him to get there right away. Coggins’s terse, ironically wry style suits the late-night conversation. Riordan pushes back.

“But if you know why I’m back, you know that doesn’t make any sense. Duckworth wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that.”

 

There was a long pause. “You’re going to regret saying that.”

 

“He’s there?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And he’s—”

 

“I’m sorry, Riordan. Yeah, he’s dead.”

The heaviness of the late-night atmosphere matches Riordan’s mood: “A thick mist hung in the air, making the walk up the hill toward the massage parlor feel like wading through applesauce.” Why is he walking anyway? “It was less than three-quarters of a mile, so calling a cab or an Uber would have taken more time than it was worth—especially since I didn’t know how the hell to summon an Uber.” Luddites, Riordan’s constant struggles with technology and communication and even clothing, are a delight.

Chris is dead, ergo Riordan’s mission is to “avenge the death of his friend.” Kittredge asks him for details. Why did Gretchen reach out?

“What was he working on?”

 

“I don’t know. She didn’t know.”

 

Kittredge pointed a gloved finger at me. “Homicide is police business. You find out anything about what he was working on or where he was, you bring it to me. No vigilante stuff, Riordan. I know you were involved in the massacre of those Argentines even if the DA couldn’t pin it on you. You try to avenge Duckworth’s murder, and I’ll wreck you.”

Too late, thinks Riordan, “there’s nothing left to wreck.”

Riordan is an old soul, and one might think he’s not up to snuff. Wingtip shoes notwithstanding, he fits the gumshoe mode—a slang term from the early 1900s that marked a fellow who “sneaks around quietly as if wearing gumshoes.” The stealthy, silent approach meant that criminals didn’t know they were under surveillance. But Gretchen—revealed five years later to be Chris’s full partner (not secretary/not admin assistant)—informs Riordan that their business model had changed considerably.

“Chris wasn’t doing the kind of work you did, August. Most of his cases involved computers—cybersecurity, identity theft, and online reputation. He trained me to help him, and we rarely left the office. Keyboard and phone replaced shoe leather and muscle. And it was a lot more lucrative. The rent wasn’t a problem.”

But August has his own methodology of working a case. When he asks Gretchen if a case could have “blown back on Chris or the firm,” she’s already there.

She pushed a manila folder across the desk toward me. “I figured you were going to ask, so I printed out the file. To answer your question, no, the client was happy with the resolution …”

But Gretchen expects Riordan to follow every thread—and she knows he won’t take any conclusion at face value. The body count is considerable in The Dead Beat Scroll, but there’s a quiet certainty that August Riordan is the man to avenge Chris Duckworth’s death; Riordan is relentless. And, in keeping with the San Francisco setting, the “new” Maltese Falcon—the object that leaves bodies in its wake—is “a previously unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.” How very in keeping with the Bay area!
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A gripping and action packed book, entertaining and well written.
I liked the plot, the fleshed out cast of characters and the style of writing.
I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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PI August Riordan returns to San Francisco when his best friend Chris Duckworth has gone missing. Duckworth has taken over Riordan’s PI business, office and even his Post Street apartment. When Ducksworth is found shot dead at a massage parlor, Riordan thinks the motive for his murder lies in one of his recent cases. Duckworth's last client, Angelina Evangelista had hired him to find her half-sister Corinne White. Riordan follows a trail of mutilated bodies left by a murderous polyamorous family obsessed with finding an unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.

But when Angelina is kidnapped, Riordan must come up with a plan to find the missing dead beat scroll to set a trap to save her and avenge his friend.

This was another fun romp through San Francisco with the stubborn old-fashioned PI and his band of friends. The black and white photographs in each chapter are also taken by the author and adds a nice cinematic touch to the story.

I received an eARC from Netgalley and Down and Out Books with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and provided this review.
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Fun!  That's how I would describe The Dead Beat Scroll.  This is my first introduction to private investigator August Riordan, who has just returned to San Francisco to discover the truth about the murder of his former partner and friend, Chris.  Chris had taken over August's PI agency and was mostly working on cyber cases, so why had he been found in a sleazy massage parlor?  Not exactly the kind of place a gay man like Chris would be hanging out.  In his search for the truth, August meets Chris's last client, Angelina, who was searching for her half-sister.  The trail leads to a bizarre cast of characters, including a polyamorous family, a Chinese ganglord, a massage worker/manicurist, to name a few. It also leads to a manuscript written in a scroll by Beat writer Jack Kerouac.  What more could a reader want?  Like I said, fun!!

It's a fast-paced book and a wild ride.  My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.
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A  good read, written in the Raymond Chandler style of American gumshoes but so much better than that. Rapid action set in SAN Francisco modern day with all the good and bad bits of modern life. Really enjoyed it and now need to look for others in the series, book leaves you wanting more.GREAT READ
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This book was entertaining with a creative plot and quickly moving story line. I was thinking that I wish I had read all the other books in this series before the current one. However, even though I know how things end up for one person, I can still enjoy the journeys that brought the characters to this point in their lives, or deaths by starting at beginning. 

Thank you NetGalley and Mark Coggins for the early read!
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