Hampshire House Publishing Co. (2019)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (3/19)
“Fire In The Rectory” by Stan Freeman brings readers back in touch with private detective John Nolan, an immigrant from Ireland who has made a name for himself as a top-notch detective. Nolan’s seemingly demure behavior often misleads others into thinking that, since he is a “Mick,” he doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to do his job.
“Fire In the Rectory,” one of three stories in this 213-page read, finds Nolan hired by the New York Federated Insurance Company to investigate a fire at the St. Mary of Assumption Church. Although the church is not damaged, the rectory library, along with a rare collection of books and a valuable family painting housed there are destroyed. Monsignor Broydick, loved by all his parishioners, and his secretary sister seem to be hiding a great secret. Police think it was an accident and no further investigation is needed, Nolan believes otherwise. With his keen skills of observation and nose for lying facial features, Nolan sets out to find exactly what happened all the while ignoring the Irish immigrant barbs given at every turn.
In “A Death Threat for Mr. Hughes,” Clifford Hughes, a well-known activist for not entering the war and a candidate for a seat in Congress, receives threats against his life and that of his family if he does not stop his pacifist activities. He hires Nolan to protect him and his family, yet his son is kidnapped right under their noses. As the threating letters continue to come, Nolan tries to narrow the area from where they came. Still meeting resistance for being from Ireland, Nolan tamps down the anger he feels while trying to rescue the boy.
“Murder at the Met,” is the most interesting and involves the most sinister plot. Fortunato Ricci, who plays in the Metropolitan Orchestra is the suspect in the death of another orchestra player. Nolan finds himself in a web of secrets, abuse and blackmail of female members of the orchestra and a missing Amati violin. This storyline had a bit more substance and intrigue with devious, self-serving characters. I particularly enjoyed the sections on illegal stock sales and the women in the orchestra who bought guns to protect themselves from the advances of Alfredo Granados, who believes he can take advantage of whoever and whatever he wants.
I enjoyed Detective Nolan’s character who quietly solves situations with little or no violence. He takes quite a bit of badgering, and bigoted comments due to his nationality yet can ignore it enough to solve the crimes. I found the author’s research and information on the era to be interesting and true to detail. Set during the time of World War I when immigrants were arriving in force to the United States, the author shows how bigotry, poverty, and corruption prevailed with his well- researched historical facts and detailed description of negativism toward immigrants.
I recommend “Fire In The Rectory” for its ingenious writing and historical information.