John Denson is a former journalist turned PI. He’s hired to work on the Seattle Star by the paper’s owner and editor, both of whom hold a suspicion that a ‘Harry’ is on the newspaper’s staff – named after the famed Harry Karafin, the Philadelphia Inquirer investigative journalist who used his position as a reporter to blackmail influential businessmen to keep stories out of the news. They are worried that a scandal might undermine the paper and push it into the hands of media magnate who has bought up all the shares with the exception of the owner and his sister. Working on the city desk, Denson immediately hones in on the potential suspect, but before he can make headway, the journalist is found murdered, along with two others, including the editor’s secretary. It appears that the Harry has received his 30 – the sign-off code under a story that signals the end – from whomever he was blackmailing. Only Denson isn’t so sure and keeps digging away at the case.
30 For a Harry blends the worlds of the PI with investigative journalism. Hoyt clearly has a feel for how newsrooms and newspapers operate and he does a nice job of immersing the reader in a newspaper world in transition from typewriters to computers, and under pressure from falling sales and consolidation. The storyline is well plotted and paced, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested until the end, although there are no great shocks at the denouncement. The characters and scenes are nicely observed and the writing has an easy style about it, with a dash of wry humour, that keeps the pages ticking by. Denson is your typical womanising, hardboiled PI, but he seems fresh enough in Hoyt’s hands to make him interesting. Overall, an enjoyable read that has a nice twist from usual PI fare.