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Matters of Doubt

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Lawyer Calvin Claxton runs a one-man law office in Portland Oregon. He would be doing well financially, according to his accountant, if it weren't for his tendency to take on the cases of people who would otherwise not be able to afford good representation. As a result, he's determined to cut back on pro bono work and take on only paying customers. So when Danny Baxter aka Picasso, a scruffy street kid and accomplished muralist shows up and asks him to help solve the murder of his mom who had disappeared when he was a child, a case gone cold until her body was found recently, Cal refuses despite the fact the local police still don't seem too interested in the case. However, after a little time and research, he decides to at least talk to the kid and soon finds himself embroiled in a very complicated and, as the bodies begin to stack up, dangerous case.

Matters of Doubt, the first in the Cal Claxton Mysteries series by Warren C Easley  was first published in 2013 but the series is being republished by Poisoned Pen Press and, after reading it, I can understand why. Told in the first person by Cal Claxton who is one of the most likeable protagonists you will find in the genre, this is a well-written and compelling story.  Along with a very interesting mystery, Easley also brings in complicated issues like homelessness especially among youth, and the difficulties the homeless face including from the law and he does it with empathy and compassion but without pity. 

Matters of Doubt gets a high recommendation from me. I will definitely be reading more of this series in the future.

<i>Thanks to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review</i>
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“Matters of Doubt” the first book in the  “Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery” series has been reissued; within a few pages new readers know everything needed to follow along with the narrative. The story unfolds in Calvin Claxton’s first person narrative, a transplant from Los Angeles who runs a one-man law practice in the small town of Dundee, Oregon. He came to Oregon to find some kind of order, some peace in his life, and shares his tranquil existence with his Australian shepherd, Archie.  Immediately he conveys his feel for people, his appreciation for geography, and his general philosophy of life – he would rather be fishing. The plot is driven by his conversations, observations, and self-examination. (“Who was I kidding?”)
Danny Baxter arrives on a bicycle offering to pay Cal to find the person who murdered his mother. (Cal is not sure how he will pay, but the boy offers.)  Baxter lives on the streets, and everyone calls him “Picasso” because he is an accomplished muralist. His mother disappeared several years ago, and her remains turned up in a reservoir. Initially Cal turns down the case, but research and the boy, himself, cause Cal to look more deeply into the case. What he finds is intricate, puzzling, and very complicated. Nicole Baxter’s boyfriend was the initial suspect in the murder, but that went nowhere. Baxter was a reporter working on a “big” story. Was that related to her death? Another death complicates things, and then yet another. Is this just coincidence or something more sinister? Everyone makes mistakes, good people, bad people, innocent people, and guilty ones, but perhaps there are certain people whom one should not cross. 
Easley weaves complicated issues into the story including underage homelessness, street art, and artists. The narrative is organized and structured; the investigation is methodical, but even Cal finds the unexpected along the way. I received a review copy of Matters of Doubt” from Warren C. Easley, Sourcebooks, and Poisoned Pen Press. It is quick to read with likeable characters, plenty of suspense, and lots of compassion.
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Matters of Doubt is the first of eight Cal Claxton novels, originally published between 2013 and 2018, now being republished by Poisoned Pen Press. The other books in the series include Dead Float (#2), Never Look Down (#3), Dead Enough (#4), Blood for Wine (#5), Moving Targets (#6), No Way to Die (#7), and No Witness (#8).

Although the lead character, Cal Claxton, is a lawyer, this is by no means a legal thriller in the classic Perry Mason sense with courtroom drama and intense cross-examination. In fact, other than a bit of background, Claxton acts far more like an amateur private eye than an attorney. Claxton has as his background being a hard-charging Los Angeles prosecutor who did not realize his wife was severely depressed until she committed suicide. Despondent over the loss, Claxton decided a change of scenery would be the thing for him and up and moved to Dundee, a rural, wine country town, an hour out of Portland, where he set up a barely-functional one-man law shop.

The setting is important because there are few crime stories set in Portland and Easley gives us a Portland suffering from its tremendous homeless problem with encampments throughout Old Town and in set -aside makeshift campgrounds. This was, of course, written in 2013 long before 2020 brought Portland nightly riots and a soaring crime rate that belied its soft Northwest rainy laidback attitude.

Claxton is a soft touch in this the first novel in the series and he finds himself basically working pro bono (for free) for a homeless tattooed youth whose became homeless after his ace reporter mother disappeared and no one seemed to care. With the recent discovery of her body but no enthusiasm from the police for finding the culprit, Picasso (as he likes to be called) calls upon Claxton, who at first turns down the hopeless youth, but later has a change of heart and tracks him down to a free clinic in the downtown area where Picasso is painting a mural and Claxton starts falling for a young doctor who is also suffering from family loss.

Much of the book gives a sympathetic portrayal of the homeless throwaway youth suffering from mental problems and drug addiction and the difficulties of getting them to get on the right path. Indeed, here, Claxton is determined to believe in Picasso even when the entire city is out to string him up for murder and the evidence arrayed against Picasso is getting rather strong.

There is a joy in the writing which brings Claxton and the other characters to life, including his concern over his ever-present dog.
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After his wife's suicide, Cal Claxton moved out of Los Angeles where he once was a leading prosecutor and finding himself in an old farmhouse in Oregon.

A kid shows up at his door one day asking for help-- .. he wants Cal to help solve his mother's murder. .which is now a cold case file.

The boy, Picasso, is a young determined street kid, who is also a gifted graffiti artist. Accepting Picasso as a client, Cal finds himself back in the big games when Picasso is arrested and charged with the murder of his mother's former boyfriend.

Cal finds himself up against the police, the media, a cage fighter, and some of the most powerful citizens.

Not only does Cal have to free Picasso from jail and murder charges, he needs to solve the case of the boy's murdered mother, but also of the murdered boyfriend.

Action filled suspense from start to finish, there are breath-taking twists and turns leading the way to a unexpected conclusion. Suspects are many and varied. Characters are deftly drawn. This is the 1st book in this series ... there are 7 more .. most are available now.. no waiting. This looks to be a riveting series, following Claxton on his further cases.

Many thanks to the author / Poisoned Pen Press / Netgalley for the digital copy of this crime fiction/mystery. Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed are unbiased and entirely my own.
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3.5 stars
The first in the Cal Claxton series, originally published in 2013 and getting a reboot May 2021 (I'm guessing there is a new one in the wings?).  There was quite a bit I liked about this mystery, which starts out with a young homeless artist trying to find the truth behind his mother's death, then goes on to include  more murders, an escort service, and a wide array of intriguing supporting characters.  My main problem falls with the protagonist, Cal.  I can't quite place what it is, but I could not get behind him as any sort of "hero" or as a wanna-be sleuth.  His often random political observations made me believe this was setting up the series to become more political in nature and less mystery and entertaining.  I am willing to read the next book in the series, if nothing else to see if my view of Cal changes in any way.
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Warren C. Easley's Matters of Doubt is a solid, original mystery—no wonder Poisoned Pen Press has chosen to reissue this 2013 title. The novel, set in Portland Oregon, features Cal Caxton, a former LA prosecutor who has retired and moved north. He didn't retire rich, and his new, small law practice is hovers on the brink of bankruptcy. Given the genre, this, of course, means that an impoverished client shows up at Claxton's door, and Claxton takes on the case. Picasso, the young, quick-to-anger, homeless man (and exceptionally gifted artist) who becomes Claxton's client, wants to know who killed his mother when Picasso was just a child. Her body has been recently found, and Picasso wants the justice she didn't receive the first time around. 

The novel abounds in suspects—a restaurateur, turned blackmailer; a wealthy lobbyist, and a right-wing radio personality—every one of whom is in a position to make Claxton's life very uncomfortable. Claxton's sidekicks—a Cuban refugee turned capitalist-private-investigator and a doctor running a clinic for homeless youth—add to the novel's twists and provide interesting alternative perspectives as events unfold. Given the characters and setting, Matters of Doubt resonates even more today than it probably did upon release, given last year's violent altercations between police, protestors, and counter-protestors in Portland.

Matters of Doubt provides a deeply satisfying read. If you read mysteries, check out this title, the look for further Cal Claxton titles released from Poisoned Pen Press in the future.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
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Matters of Doubt is a legal thriller written by Warren C Easley and is the first in the Cal Claxton lawyer series. Cal was a Los Angeles prosecutor prior to his life-change to set up his practise in Portland, after his wife’s death. Cal decides to investigate a cold case of Picasso, a street artist whose mother’s body turns up eight years after her disappearance. An easy read with a slow building atmospheric tale that is a welcome addition for fans of lawyers seeking justice narratives. It’s a four-star rating and eagerly await the next adventure of this new legal noir. With thanks to NetGalley and the author for a preview copy for review purposes. All opinions expressed herein are bias free and totally my own.
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An original & entertaining murder mystery set among the beautiful and rather peaceful world of rural Oregon where nothing really appears as tranquil as it should be. Cal Claxton is a winsome but complex character, a recent transplant from Southern California determined to start a new chapter in is life away from the urban hustle and bustle of LA, but a chance encounter with a young & talented street artist from Portland will unfortunately set his life on a dangerous course where murder and the local & unscrupulous criminal underworld will definitely give him more than a passing headache...
Tensly written & higly suspenseful, this fiendishly plotted mystery and its incredible cast of colorful & often malevolent characters will take the readers into a wild and unforgettable journey from start to finish. A wonderful treat to be enjoyed without moderation!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen for this terrific ARC
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Calvin (Cal) Claxton is a retired LA prosecutor who has relocated to Oregon to get away from his rat race of a career. Now settled in Dundee, Cal sets up shop – a one-man law practice.

Struggling to make a go with his practice, Cal is approached one day by Danny (Picasso) Baxter, a homeless teen who wants Cal to investigate the murder of his mother, Nicole Baxter.

Not wanting to get involved in a “charity” case, Cal initially turns Picasso down only to end up feeling guilty about his refusal to help the teen. As a result, Cal changes his mind and takes on the investigation only to discover that he might have taken on more than he bargained for.

Matters of Doubt was an exciting novel and the story is told in the first person by the lead protagonist — a straight shooter with a soft spot. The other characters in the novel are colorful and interesting. Some characters were amusing, and others suspicious.

The plot is a little complex in that there are several storylines going on simultaneously. Eventually, those stories blended together for a surprising conclusion.

Overall, Matters of Doubt is an excellent startup novel for a series that I am sure I won’t want to miss. Five surprising stars.

I received a digital ARC from Poisoned Pen Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
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Somehow I'd missed this first book in a series that's now 6 books long- even though I've read the late ones.  It's always interesting to go back to the origin story but it's also challenging because you, the reader, know that the characters, in this case,. Cal, will become more complex and complicated as the series matures.  WRT to this, however, it's the story of a man- Cal- who has holed up in a new city- Portland- while trying to understand and heal after the suicide of his wife.  He's pulled back by Picasso, a street artist whose mother,a reporter, was murdered.  Mom was a reporter and she'd uncovered some bad stuff; Cal's efforts dig it all back up.  Easley takes great use of his Portland setting.  Thanks to Netgalley for the DRC of this reissue.
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Very auspicious first book for a series, with an interesting setting, a likable lawyer protagonist in Portland.
This was a fun book, engaging and fast moving.The mystery of the story I really enjoyed and it held my attention! Great book!
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This book was sent to me on Netgalley on Kindle for review. The story is slow at times and is definitely character driven with no loveable characters. That being said, there are intriguing parts in the plot.  Try it.
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Matters of Doubt by Warren C. Easley
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:  A former LA district attorney is humbly living in Dundee Oregon when he is visited by a homeless boy looking for someone, anyone to help find his mothers killer. With really little experience Cale Claxton agrees to take a look. 

Comments: The first in a series and it hits all cylinders. Not exactly sure what’s happening with the series, but you can read all Claxton books already available. I will be. Easley explores many societal ills, and explores down and out characters. Good stuff, read them.
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3 stars

A condescending MC narrates this book in a 1st person voice I found a bit annoying to read, but I did appreciate the character development of Picasso (the other MC), & the mystery is well constructed. This would have been 3.5 or 4 stars if I better liked Cal, the MC/narrator.

[What I liked:]

•I think Picasso, the young man Cal is legally representing, is a well developed character, nuanced & not clichéd. He lives on the street/in a homeless encampment by choice though he has resources. He’s troubled & lacking some stability, yet is a very reliable & integral part of his community. He has goals & dreams he’s working towards, & just has an unconventional path to get there. He’s resilient, compassionate but not a pushover, makes some reckless choices yet has a good head on his shoulders, & is admirably dedicated to his art. I found him a very likable character despite his flaws & appreciated his complexity as a human being.
•The mystery is layered and an interesting case.

•I liked Anna & Cal’s unfolding relationship. It added some depth to the otherwise action-packed plot.

[What I didn’t like as much:]

•I’m not a huge fan of 1st person narration usually, & I didn’t particularly like the voice/style of the narrator in this book. I can’t put my finger on why, it felt a bit forced or artificial. It’s mainly down to my personal preference for 3rd person narration though, so don’t mind me.

•Cal the narrator, but also most of the over-30 adults in this book, have a very irksome attitude towards the youth: a “young people these days, what’s the world coming to” mentality. They’re super judgmental of people with tattoos for no good reason, tend to assume young people are drug users for no good reason, & it comes across as condescending & just plain rude. I get that Cal is a middle aged, strait laced, white dude lawyer type, so maybe it’s supposed to be his characterization & not the message of the book, but his judgmental attitude doesn’t endear him to me as a character at all, even though he does have some character growth in this area.

•Cal also lost sympathy points from me because of his attitude towards Picasso. He doesn’t seem too devoted to actually helping Picasso get justice. He has an attitude of “I guess I’ll be a do-gooding savior for this undeserving street kid out of a vague sense of guilt, because I’ve been roped into it against my better judgment & also because it might help me score with a love interest who actually does care”. This also made him seem condescending.

•For a lawyer with loads of experience as a high-profile public prosecutor, Cal doesn’t take the law/legal procedure very seriously. He finds a dead body, enters what he believes is a crime scene & pockets evidence, wipes his fingerprints, & goes on his merry way without notifying the police until it’s convenient for him. It doesn’t paint him as an upstanding citizen.

•I found Nando an annoying, slightly abrasive character. Partly because there were boringly detailed descriptions of food whenever he showed up. 

CW: suicide, murder, drug abuse, drug overdose, mentions of domestic violence, PTSD, bigotry towards homeless people, eating disorder, police brutality

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]
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