Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
For some death is the end, but for the few fortunate ones such as Charlie Miner, it’s definitely nothing more than an inconvenience. In Earl Javorsky‘s Down Solo we are introduced to the afore-mentioned Charlie, a private investigator who wakes up on a slab at the morgue with a bullet hole through his head. Far from letting it dissuade him from his case involving massive fraud and religious extremism, Charlie sets out to connect all the dots, and perhaps later have a look into why and how he came back from the dead.
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Earl Javorsky’s Grim Awakening
We all have our own ways of looking at death and expectations for what awaits us on the other side, if anything at all. If there is one thing most of us can agree on though, it’s once we’re dead all of our Earthly problems will disappear for evermore, especially if there is no reincarnation in the plans.
Thankfully, in the world of literature death seems constrained to indecipherable rules, twists and turns that run astray from the expected course of things. In Down Solo by Earl Javorsky, we are treated to just such a scenario, and it sets in motion a tumultuous chain of events that will have one private investigator diving deeper than he ever expected into the muck and darkness of Southern California.
To keep things as brief and spoiler-free as possible, as the story opens we are presented with the afore-mentioned investigator, Charlie Miner. His day has come to an abrupt beginning as he finds himself awake on a mortuary slab, with what is apparently a bullet hole in his head. Not letting himself be deterred by such an inconvenience, he gets up and starts to put the puzzle pieces back together.
Obviously, the unsuccessfully successful attempt on his life was the result of his latest case, and without losing a beat he goes back to working it… and it’s in his best interest to find the criminals behind it all, for they are as much of a threat to Charlie’s daughter as they are to him. With religious extremism, fraud and a whole lot of gold on the line, it’s only a matter of time before it all culminates into an explosion leaving few winners in the end. Maybe, once it’s all over, Charlie can start looking into the whole resurrection ordeal as well.
A Marriage of Noir and Paranormal
While this may only be Javorsky‘s second published book, it never even for a second feels like it. Each and every sentence has been polished and carefully refined a thousand times over (or so I imagine), with thoughts, descriptions and conversations flowing quickly and being easy to understand.
The plot doesn’t meander all over the place and feels more simple in its approach, focusing on one aspect of the story at a time, leaving us very little room for getting lost. Considering that Javorsky is writing a series around Charlie Miner, I feel like this minimalistic approach in terms of world-building is beneficial as it gives him greater flexibility when developing his universe in future books.
It’s always nice to have some room for learning and improvement, and what we get in this first chapter of the series is more than enough to work with already. In terms of genre the author certainly knows how to walk the tightrope between paranormal and noir mystery. On one hand we have the whole ordeal with the resurrection, with additional notes of the supernatural peppered here and there throughout the story.
On the other hand, much of the story is spent within the confines of realistic noir, following Charlie’s foray into the conspiracy that got him killed. His investigation, for the most part, seems to follow the laws of logic and reason. We know things out of the ordinary can indeed happen in this world… but it seems they very seldom do. This selective kind of fusion between the two genres has worked out splendidly well in my opinion, managing to create a powerful and haunting atmosphere of an ominous supernatural mystery.
The Darkness of Humanity
With this being in large part a noir book, I am certain you can infer what sort of narration you ought to expect from this. Somewhat reminiscent of the old detectives like Sam Spade, Charlie carries us with him through ordeals he describes through a jaded and cynical perspective, witnessing a world that has, for the most part, fallen to and merged with the darkness that befell it.
In Down Solo there is quite a bit of heavy content revolving around hardcore drug users and criminals on the bottom rungs of the food chain, exploring the sadness of their lives, the many missed opportunities they’ll never see again. While these portrayals sometimes a feel bit over the top, they are, for the most part, realistic and representative of what happens in the real world. In other words, the darkness hidden beneath the skin is on full display in Down Solo.
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With that being said, this story isn’t all doom and gloom one hundred percent of the time. There are a few humorous moments of black comedy here and there to lighten the mood, and the more we learn about Charlie Miner the more endearing he becomes to us. His love for his daughter and attempts at leading a normal life are nothing if not touching, and his consistently witty, wisecracking attitude certainly serves its purpose in alleviating the suffering his life has incurred on him. While a swathe of darkness looms over the novel, it’s not without a few big rays of shining light.
The Final Verdict
With all elements taken into consideration, Down Solo by Earl Javorsky is an excellent paranormal noir mystery written with exceptional proficiency. The story was filled tension and intrigue, the characters more than well-enough developed for us to care about them, the atmosphere consistently engaging, and the ruminations mirroring real life leaving us with strong impressions. If this sounds like the kind of genre you’d enjoy, I highly recommend you give Down Solo a chance for it might mark the beginning of an extraordinary new series.
Earl Javorsky is a German writer who immigrated to the United States where he has gone through a gauntlet of professions including delivery boy, musician, university music teacher, copy editor for publishers such as The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, and finally, a novelist. So far he has published three books, all of them earning some noticeable critical acclaim. They include: Down Solo , Down to No Good, and Trust Me.