When Frank Cole’s business went belly up, he had hoped bankruptcy would provide him with a fresh start. Instead, thanks to a bizarre court decision, Frank’s future earnings above a certain level are attached to his past debts. Partly to wait out an appeal and partly to spite his creditors, Frank moves down to the small town of Exile, Florida to begin his own exile of sorts until his appeal is resolved one way or another in Murder in Exile (2006), Vincent H. O’Neil‘s first Frank Cole mystery.
Still wary of his time as a company head, Frank doesn’t much mind the easygoing, low responsibility lifestyle he’s created in Exile working odd jobs as a fact checker and playing the odd chess game with Gray Tolliver, a local retiree. In fact, the mellow pace is a nice change from the hectic life he left behind.
When an insurance company hires Frank to do some fact checking on a hit-and-run, he expects a routine case. But the more Frank investigates, the more obvious it becomes that there is more to this case than meets the eye.
O’Neil’s writing is refreshingly original. On top of that, he’s created a really fun protagonist in Frank Cole. The narrative is breezy, light, and willing to crack a joke when necessary. The premise that brings Frank to Exile is not, it is true, the most probable. But it is most enjoyable, as is Murder in Exile itself–a quick, delightful read that delves into the world of fact checking and research just as easily as the world of murder and mystery. On top of that, this novel was also the winner of the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Contest.
Franks adventures continue in Reduced Circumstances (2007).