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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
This is a brisk, immensely enjoyable updating of the private eye and noir genres. When we first meet Neal Carey he's a graduate student at Columbia, working on a degree in 18th Century English Literature. But then he receives a call from his "Dad," Joe Graham, who turns out to be the one-armed dwarf who sort of adopted Neal when he was eleven years old and running the streets. A series of flashbacks shows Graham teaching Neal how to survive and grooming him for an eventual position trouble shooting for a shadowy organization called Friends of the Family, who look after the interests of the wealthy clients of the Kitteridge family bank in Providence, RI. Over the years, Neal learned everything from how to tail people to how to search a room without anyone ever knowing, and in the course of these unusual studies, Joe realized that Neal was a gifted student. Eventually the Friends send him to school, but now they need him for a special assignment.
It's 1976 and with Jimmy Carter likely to win the Democratic presidential nomination, he's expected to look for a northern running mate. Senator John Chase of Rhode Island has a decent shot at the job, but there's one significant skeleton in his closet : his troublesome teenage daughter has run away to London. Now it's up to Neal to go find her and bring her back in time for the Convention.
Neal is a streetwise and sassy hero, which makes for plenty of snappy banter. And the London he arrives in is in the midst of the birth of punk rock, which provides an unusually anarchic backdrop to the action. Add in a priceless first edition of Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle and a double-crosser within the Friends and you've got a mystery that cleverly mixes elements of classic noir with various innovations of the author's own. Imagine Oliver Twist by way of Raymond Chandler with a soundtrack by The Clash, and you'll capture something of the spirit of the story. It all makes for great fun and I look forward to reading the subsequent books in the series.
GRADE : A-
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 1998
This is a fabulous book, introducing the reader to fascinating characters (Neal Carey, Joe Graham, etc). As the first in a series of Neal Carey mysteries, this is the perfect book to drag you in and hook you, leaving you wanting more. The story is fascinating, and the driving plot makes this a page-turner. And how can you not fall in love with these charatcters?This is one of the best detective mysteries I've read, and I reccommend it to ALL my friends. READ IT!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 1, 2009
Don Winslow's debut novel is scary good. The writing is completely self-assured. The comedic moments and sarcasm are well constructed. And he has created an interesting and hugely appealing main character for a series, and surrounded him with several interesting back plots and secondary characters.

This is a book that will teach you a lot. You'll learn things you didn't know about 18th century English literature, how to tail someone and not get caught, the best way to score drugs in London, and the finer points of picking a load for a shotgun. It will also show you that Don Winslow is a master at scattering gems like that through a book with a fast moving plot, richly drawn characters, and a very good sense of place.

I've read several other books by Winslow. I especially liked The Winter of Frankie Machine, California Fire and Life, and The Power of the Dog. I backtracked my way into the Neal Carey series and was amazed to find that his debut novel is as good as any of his best works.

I don't know how someone comes out of the starting gate with such a well-written first effort, but Winslow has done it. Bravo. I recommend this highly.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2001
I read this after loving California Fire And Life (by the same author). What I found was Neal Carey, a wonderful plot, some great dialogue and Don Winslow taking another step up the ladder of my favorite writers.
This book is intriguing, gripping and fun. It is filled with detail and an insight that leaves the reader enriched for the experience. Novels that flit from city to city seldom manage to capture the feel of the setting with any great detail but Don Winslow finds a way to take you from New York to London and have you believe he's lived in both places all of his life. The scenes in Yorkshire are a little stereotyped, but that's nitpicking in the extreme.
Neal Carey is an excellent character, hard, streetwise and compassionate, backed up ably by Joe Graham and a smart mouth. The story is well told and unfortunately believable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2000
This is my first experience reading a mystery by Don Winslow. I was intrigued by the character development of Neal Carey and Joe Graham. The writing is fun, witty and riveting at times. This is a perfect beach read or long winter evening read. It's a hoot!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 1997
Told with a page-turning mix of flashback and "current" time, the plot has some surprises, including the satisfying denouement. Just as interesting is the way the reader gets a look at the education of an investigator. I'm not one myself, but I almost feel like I could be a PI -- with this book, and plenty of practice. First in a series; the second is out in hardback
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2011
This is the first of 5 novels featuring Neal Carey, and it was my first encounter with the author. I just loved the style and and the bizarre characters. The protagonist Neal Carey is described in great detail; the first part is nearly a biography, but was not uninteresting or irrelevant to what was to come. With everything pointing toward an exciting climax and conclusion, the author seems to run out of ideas. I found the final switcheroo completely unrealistic and unacceptable, given the context of what had gone before, given the characters involved, and given their health and state of mind. What a letdown. Doesn't an author have a responsibility to his own characters and plot not to just flick it in? It's as if the author had run up against a deadline and had to hurriedly wrap it up. Even given that this was his first publication, I was left wary about reading other books of his. I'll wait for one for which reviewers are unreservedly reassuring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2015
"A Cool Breeze on the Underground" is the first novel of five in Winslow's Neal Carey series. This is a unique and rather hard to categorize mystery/crime series.

Carey is not your typical hardboiled fedora-wearing PI. And this is not your typical crime novel. It's not a cover to cover action-packed bloodbath, although in the latter part of the book, the action does get a little hot and heavy.

The story is filled with history and backstories and all kinds of minutiae. I found it to be a terrific read, interesting from page one all the way through. The pacing just worked so well.

Winslow sets up Carey's story in a sort of roundabout manner, talking about an old style New England bank which found it profitable to take care of its clients and help them out with their personal troubles.

Carey, the son of a no-good junkie/prostitute picks the pocket of the fixer for the Friends of the bank who decides to teach Carey all kinds of important things like how to tail someone and how to search an apartment.

Carey turns out to be a kid genius and the Friends send him to prep schools and, when he is old enough, out to take care of business like finding a senator's runaway daughter.

The story is told in a slightly humorous, tongue-in-cheek fashion and it has its moments like when Carey is given boxing lessons.

The job takes Carey to London in the seventies when punk rock was all the rage.

This is clearly an author to follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Rule 10 of Elmore Leonard's rules of writing is "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." In writing "A Cool Breeze on the Underground" Don Winslow didn't try hard enough. The book contains a decent plot, some interesting characters, and a healthy dose of genuine wit. The prose goes down smoothly. My problem was that there was frequently too much of it. The author lingered on minutia that contributed little to the story or to readers' understanding of his characters. Also, it is hard to be impressed when the supposedly bright protagonist not only makes a bone-headed error in trying to hide himself, but repeats the same error hiding himself at the peak of the action that he made when learning his trade as a detective.

I do not mean to be hard on the author. I infer that it was his first novel, and it is certainly put together with better craft than his protagonist shows as a detective. In fact, it is better written and more entertaining than most thriller fiction. My advice to potential readers, however, is that you should avoid reading it immediately after you've finished a novel by Elmore Leonard. Leonard, unlike Winslow, tends to follow his own rule #10.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2015
Ordinarily I love Don Winslow. I've read most of his books, so when I found he wrote a detective series, I was looking forward to reading it, because I love detective novels. I was severely let down. The book jumps around far too much, leaving the reader confused about time frame and the relationship between characters. There felt like there was little to no development, which is strange because this book is the first in a series. You get a general outline of the main character but that is it, everyone else, including major supporting characters are left flat. The ending was predictable, though the route there was confusing and made little sense. I won't be continuing the series.
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