Thursday, March 19, 2020

“True Blue Detective” and “Criminal Instinct” by Vito Zuppardo

Zach Nelson is a retired New Orleans police officer. He’s been living with his son and daughter-in-law; his wife was murdered many years before during a robbery. Family circumstances require a temporary move to a retirement home. Zach, irrepressible on a bad day and exuberant on a good one, soon makes friends – and an enemy in the retirement home’s administrator. 

The home is a place where strange things happen, strange as in untimely deaths. While Zach and his friends are trying to figure out what’s going on, the reader knows – the doctor who owns the home has a gambling habit, and he needs money for both gambling and paying off debts owed to unsavory people. So he arranges an accident for a retirement home resident and magically produces an organ donation agreement. The organs are sold to a shadowy figure who flies in and out of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

True Blue Detective is the first of several in the series of the same name by Vito Zuppardo. There are currently six in the series, most of them featuring New Orleans Police Detective Mario DeLuca (True Blue Detective does not). This one is alternately horrifying and funny; the craziness of the life depicted in this retirement home almost boggles the reader’s mind. The book includes a host of memorable characters who seem to walk right out of the New Orleans culture. There’s also a great chase scene up St. Charles Avenue that ends on the River Road.

Criminal Instinct is a prequel to the series (likely written after the series was underway). It’s a novella featuring Detective DeLuca, who is sitting with his girlfriend at a restaurant while watching a diner staring at a couple dining nearby. DeLuca recognizes what is about to happen – the diner is going to shoot one or both of the people he’s watching. 

The detective intervenes, stops the shooting before it starts, and finds out what’s going on. The woman is the diner’s sister, and the man is a drug pusher, woman abuser, and general low life. DeLuca makes a promise to bring the low life down. And DeLuca always keeps his promises.

Vito Zuppardo
Zuppardo retired from the casino business in 2003 and began writing full-time. His the author of nine police novels in the True Blue Detective and Lucy Voodoo series.

If you like police stories packed with action, True Blue Detective and Criminal Instinct are for you. Along with underlying (and sometimes overt) humor and bodies – lots of bodies. 

Top photograph: a view of the New Orleans business direct from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, by Ben Dutton via Unsplash. Used with permission.

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