Monday 13 January 2014



A moonlighting director finds his sideline more dangerous than he expected

Alan Bernhardt is just starting rehearsal when his pager goes off. No one in the small San Francisco theater minds—they know that to make it on the stage, you have to be prepared to do all sorts of odd jobs off of it. But this director’s job is odder than most. He works for Herbert Dancer, head of a boutique private investigation service. A corporate secretary has vanished with a sheaf of valuable documents, and it will take an off-Broadway sensibility to bring her home.

Bernhardt is just closing in on the woman and her boyfriend when he learns that she isn’t running for a profit, but for her life. To save her from the men who hired him, Bernhardt must find her and protect her—because his artistic vision does not include blood on his hands.

This is Wilcox’s first book in a series of 5 featuring Alan Bernhardt, an actor-cum-director-cum part-time Private Investigator.

Bernhardt is hired to track down Betty Giles, a missing researcher. He locates her in fairly short order and after reporting back to his employer is stood down – job done. Before he leaves town, Giles’ travelling companion, Nick Ames is shot dead after leaving a local bar late at night.

Concerned that this is more than a coincidence and that he may be an unwitting accessory to murder, Bernhardt quizzes his employer and after failing to get any answers about who hired him, quits. A decent man with a conscience, Alan Bernhardt then sets out to discover the mystery of Betty Giles’ disappearance and what responsibility he might have for her boyfriend’s death.

After Ames’ killing, Giles goes on the run again. Bernhardt chases her a second time. Unknown to either, Ames’ assassin has been re-hired to silence Betty and permanently eliminate a threat to his employer. With alternating points of view, we follow Bernhardt’s investigation and enigmatic, black hit-man, Willis Dodge in a race to find Betty Giles first.

Interesting mystery, decent protagonist, likeable hit-man, sympathetically drawn quarry, tense pursuit, believable pace and satisfying resolution – with a cameo appearance from Frank Hastings the star of the author’s 19 book long police procedural series. (The first of which; The Lonely Hunter I read late last year.)

Having now read both a Bernhardt and a Hastings mystery, on balance I prefer this particular character to Frank Hastings. With nearly 20 years separating the two Wilcox books I have read; 1969 v. 1988, how much of that is due to the writer honing his craft over the years? Probably quite a lot in fact; Bernhardt’s Edge has a much stronger plot in my opinion.

The full list of Bernhardt books is as follows:
1. Bernhardt's Edge (1988)
2. Silent Witness (1990)
3. Except for the Bones (1991)
4. Find Her a Grave (1993)
5. Full Circle (1994)

With the present backlog of unread books and an embargo currently in place on adding more to the creaky shelves of the library, albeit an imaginary and ineffective one, I will (98% certain) desist from reading more from the author in either of his series.

Enjoyable enough but he hasn’t made it into the ranks of the must read authors.  

4 from 5

Accessed thanks to the fine chaps and chapesses at Open Road Media via Net Galley.     


  1. This sounds interesting. San Francisco, theater setting. I might give it a try. Nice review, Col.

    1. I know you like your San Francisco books! TBH, there is only a limited amount of "theatre" but it does help define the main character.

  2. Col - It does sound like a decent read. The San Francisco setting is always a 'plus,' and it's hard to make a hit man appealing, so I'd be interesting in knowing how that's done.

    1. Margot, will we be seeing a hit-man in your next book? San Francisco is turning into a preferred location for a lot of my reading!

  3. Enjoyed reading the review however I think that's as far as I am willing to go with it. I'm averse to adding more books that are apart of a series. Since it didn't go on your must read list I feel as though I won't be missing anything significant.

    Looking at that side bar Col, I'm not seeing a lot of women writers over there of which you promised whoops I mean you "said" would read more of this year.....(just keeping you on your toes and picking on you).

    1. Keishon, fair enough re Wilcox, I'm glad I read it but my life doesn't feel like it would be empty if I didn't get to read more. Just an enjoyable, ok book.

      Oooh....I'm being got at and it's only the 2nd week of Jan!
      No - point taken. Books 4, 5 and 6 are in hand or soon will be. I'll make sure 7 and 8 are women.......should get me back to 25%! (Stay on my case!)

  4. Another writer to keep in mind, Col, perhaps one that I'll pull out of the hat, where I know it's going to be a book but not knowing who the author is going to be. The hat represents my unplanned reading.

    1. There's a lot to be said for unplanned reading, I remember those days. Sometimes it would take me a couple of hours to decide on what book next, I grab a pile and filter them down.

      I might go back to more spontaneous reading in 2015!