Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rocky Leonard’s “Coastal Empire”

Rocky Leonard’s first novel, “Coastal Empire,” is a fast ride through Georgia’s coastal Chatham County and Savannah. The book features Robert Mercer, a Marine veteran (“there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine”) who runs a private detective agency in the Savannah suburb of Thunderbolt with the help of Ox, his very capable German Shepherd partner.

When Mercer comes to the aid of a damsel in distress, it puts him on the trail of a sinister plot involving precious jewels, high-priced real estate, and murder. Before long, the bodies start to pile up as drug dealers, jewel thieves, and a professional hit man stalk Mercer and his associates, including Kelly, a sexy jewelry store employee who may not be as innocent as she seems.

Leonard takes his readers on a journey through the local haunts of Savannah, Tybee Island and coast al Georgia. Local readers will appreciate the attention to detail in the descriptions of the area, and those who admire Savannah from afar will find hints of places to go and things to see when they have the chance to visit.

The book moves quickly and its many plot twists keep readers guessing. The criminal mastermind’s ingenious plot is simple but effective and plausible enough to feel threateningly possible. It is also easily concealed from the eyes of the public and law enforcement… until Mercer’s client stumbles upon it.

Leonard’s villains are not caricatures. In fact, one of the most interesting characters is DeVaughn Harris. A mild-mannered auto mechanic by day, Harris moonlights as a hit man by night. The juxtaposition of friendly boss and cold-blooded contract killer makes Harris seem all the more real and leaves one wondering about the secret lives of people that we encounter on a daily basis.

“Coastal Empire” is the first book in the Robert Mercer series. He will likely be back with his Savannah buddies to solve a new mystery soon. It will be interesting to find out more about Mercer and his friends, such as how a seemingly supernatural event in a historic Savannah cemetery affects him, whether Kelly remains in the picture, and whether the events in “Coastal Empire” inspire Nick, a brilliant programmer and confirmed Generation X slacker, to change his life’s course.

“Coastal Empire” is available as an ebook from Smashwords.com.

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