It Takes Two to Strangle, Stephen KaminskiHow refreshing to read a cozy mystery written by a male, with a male protagonist, and strong female characters. Mr. Kaminski has given us a very likable fellow and we learn of his integrity through his actions instead of merely through exposition and narrative. I like that Damon is not perfect and makes mistakes in his voluntary sleuthing. The author’s law background is evident in Damon’s logical analysis of presented clues and his clean questioning of suspects. Damon’s association with Gerry provides the link to how he is getting into this deliberate dabbling and the women in his life are fun, smart, and easy to like.

My critique of this engaging new author’s work is that his characters’ dialect, dialogue and diction are all so similar that it was imperative to know the names preceding the conversation. A New Yorker in a hurry will speak with a different pace next to a relaxed southerner on the front porch. Likewise, a character with a baseball background or law background will use different word choices than, say, a tailor or a chef. There is melody in my old friend Aristotle’s elements of story and each character’s rhythmic variations can provide an underlying musicality to the conversations.

All in all, Kaminski has created a new face in town and I’m sure more trouble is in store for Damon, et. al. His well-crafted mystery and tidy ending will leave you satisfied and looking forward to more of Hollydale, the Bethany vs. Rebecca saga, and hopefully more of Damon’s most intriguing mother.

Don’t Cry over Killed Milk is Steve Kaminski’s second in the Damon Lassard mystery series. The organized, very tidy plot, appropriate clue arrangements and clever misdirection smoothly take the reader from moment to moment and, again as in the first book, It Takes Two to Strangle, I was impressed by the smart progression of events laced with deeper issues, such as bullying and revenge in this second release.

I particularly enjoyed the attention to blocking, or character movement, to either give us a hint at motivation or deviously take us in the opposite direction. Two characters can say the same line yet mean two different things. Either looking a person in the eyes, or saying the line while averting your gaze, can give us the subtext of ulterior motives or subconscious goals. Kaminski uses this technique well.

Next time I would like to see more of what makes Damon tick. In one scene, Damon “closed his eyes and let the smell of freshly ground Columbian beans fill his nostrils.” This was a nice sensory moment and could have evolved into a glance inside Damon’s mind to learn how he thinks, what makes him feel the way he does, or what troubles him.

This is a good cozy read and especially so in a world of female cozy authors. Steve Kaminski has earned his place and the central character is believable, approachable, and worthy of the reader’s investment.