This is the second of four posts about the early Deets Shanahan mysteries — From the Beginning — just now reissued in trade paperback and e-book formats.
When I wrote the first Shanahan, Stone Veil, I had no idea that it was the beginning of a series. I wrote the first novel simply to submit to a competition. As it turned out the book was a finalist in that competition, was nominated for a prestigious award, was optioned for a movie, and received really good reviews.
The publisher, St Martin’s Press, encouraged me to write another novel featuring Deets Shanahan. This time, I wanted to play up the age issue. I placed the elderly detective in a situation where he would have to interact with a couple of kids. It turned out Steel Web was not only fun to write, but as I wrote it I began to realize the series wouldn’t require me to be a slave to a formulaic, repetitive task. This was my biggest fear.
Instead, I was able to develop the main character and, not incidentally, create an evolving, rich relationship between the P.I. and the woman in his life. Over the life of the series, many wonderful characters have come and gone and many have stayed — and grown as well. These characters are not part of a formula. Their very different natures determine the arc of the story. Second novels are often a disappointment. This one stayed strong.
What the story is about:
Two sixteen-year-old boys break into a house looking for small change. Instead they find more money than they ever dreamed possible. Unfortunately, they also discover the blood-spattered body of an undercover cop. The kids make a big mistake. They take the money. With fingerprints all over the victim and blood on their shoes they give the prosecution an airtight case against them. Enter Shanahan who uncovers a few secrets among the rich and powerful that might give the defendants a chance to escape the death penalty.
What the reviewers said at the time:
"An extremely intelligent, masterfully plotted novel with extraordinary characters, carefully crafted and finely polished. Don't overlook it." — Booklist
"The Steel Web is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery." — Mystery News
"Fast-paced, wryly told, and evenly balanced — solid detection combined with warm, empathetic characterization." — Kirkus Reviews