4.5 Stars for ‘The Man in the Black Fedora,’ by Tom Johnson
Wrap a mysterious vigilante with a unique gift in an intriguing crime story with plenty of underworld hoodlums terrorising innocent people and you have a winning plot.
Add to that mix, a cast of believable, likeable characters, a swift and steady pace [this story never drags] and the result is not only a compelling story, but a fun one.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
The Man in the Black Fedora opens like a Hollywood screenplay with the author dropping you right in the middle of the action. ‘You have to love books that grab you from the opening page. This one does!’
Kay Shannon, a 22-year-old nightclub entertainer, witnesses her boss dealing drugs with gangsters and is suddenly on the run.
Cornered, and moments from losing her life on a bridge, her White Knight saviour arrives in the form of a man in a black Fedora with his vigilante squad. The rescue is swift, and Kay is recruited.
From there, the story winds through a series of events including a rare and invaluable art heist, the murder of a pair of innocent shopkeepers, and a neighbourhood falling under the intimidation of a diabolical gang of ruthless hoodlums.
The author also, cleverly, employs some praiseworthy character development, and further elaborates on several mysteries, including the identity of the main vigilante, The Man in The Black Fedora.
The mysteries, there are several, build throughout, giving this story a nice appeal. When one is solved, the author quickly shifts to another never allowing the pace to falter.
The mobsters are vile, corrupt and murderous and well-deserving of the justice ahead. The vigilantes are good, decent and driven by a lust to see the streets safe and the good people protected beyond what the police can facilitate.
In writing the above, and while reading, I continually had the feeling I was in the midst of a script of a Batman film. And there are elements of that in the story. For someone who thoroughly enjoyed the recent Batman films, this made The Man in The Black Fedora even more gratifying.
[What I liked most]
Character development: The author was thorough with his descriptions, both of their physical appearance and of their motivations. I was able to visualise them. This is an intrinsic element in good story telling and Mr Johnson did a fine job.
Mysteries: For someone who has read every story Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote, more than a few times, this is a formula guaranteed to satisfy my literary desires.
One: I felt the author released the identity of the Man in the Black Fedora a bit early thus losing the opportunity for that final twist. It would have been nice, in my opinion, if it was left until the very end, or not released at all. This would have left the reader guessing and possibly set the stage for a sequel.
I give this a Very High recommendation. Though missing any great profundity, it’s good vs evil – light vs dark, the imagination is laudable, and I so liked the author’s creativity when depicting the rare gift the vigilante boss employed and how he used it against the underworld villains. The Man in the Black Fedora makes no claim that it is more than a fun mystery / adventure. And it satisfies all the requirements of that genre.
I enjoyed it to the very last page.
Review by T. E. Mark – Author