Saturday, January 23, 2016

Author Spotlight: Erik Rivenes

I was introduced to author Erik Rivenes when I was asked to review his first Detective Harm Queen novel titled The Big Mitt. I quickly became a fan of this talented author and was very excited when he released Ill Fame, the second novel featuring Detective Queen. My five star reviews for both books are below.

author Erik Rivenes
Erik Rivenes has been entrenched in crime history since the early 90's, when, fresh from college, he started a tour company devoted to 1920s and 30s bank-robbing gangsters.

He shares his time between his beloved native state of Minnesota, Taipei, Taiwan (where he taught for many years), and Portland, Oregon.

His first historic crime series, starting with the novel "The Big Mitt", focuses on both real and fictional characters in 1901, Minneapolis. History and imagination weave together to paint a dark and engaging world of brothels, saloons and a political machine intent on burning a path of corruption through the city. 

Book Reviews

“She awoke with a wild scream locked tight in her throat and fought to choke it back with short, hard bursts of breath. Her body froze with fear, the terrible fear of not knowing.” So begins the debut novel of author Erik Revenes. He successfully grabs you by the collar right from the start and doesn’t let go until he’s taken you through every page of his tale. It’s a wild ride, one full of twists and turns and built upon a solid foundation of research and extraordinary writing.

The Big Mitt takes place in Minneapolis and starts out on the very first day of the year 1901. The first chapter builds a tension that grows throughout the rest of the book, and new characters are added to the mix at an astonishing rate. At first I was a little nervous about this, and not sure if I would be able to keep them all straight as I read, but the author does not spend any time on anyone who isn’t vital to the story and does a good job of keeping his players in line.

The story is many things. It’s an amazing mix of historical fiction, thriller and crime novel. It reminded me a lot of Sherlock Holmes in many ways. I instantly liked the main character, detective Harm Queen, but wasn’t exactly sure why. He is a unique blend of both upstanding, hardworking gentleman who wants to do his job well and absolute cad who gambles and drinks too much. The author wrote him in such a way, however, that it was almost impossible not to feel some sort of affection for him. Rivenes has a talent for many things, one being his character development. Each one is unique and colorful, and it’s not easy to tell exactly which of them fall into the good guy column, and which of them fall into the bad. A handful of them are a bit of both which kept me eager throughout the novel to see how the different relationships developed between them.

This is a lengthy novel and Rivenes packs a lot into his pages. At the beginning of each chapter is a photograph of historic Minneapolis, and at the end, an engaging acknowledgement page that explains to the reader how many of the characters depicted in the book were either real people or based on real people. There are also credits given to the photos that were very interesting, and there is no doubt that the author took a substantial amount of time to learn about the time period and the setting and was very thorough in making sure he wrote an authentic story.


Erik Rivenes greatly impressed me with his debut novel, The Big Mitt, and had solidified his reputation for me as a talented author.  When I learned that he had written a second novel, I was very excited to jump in. I am pleased to say that Rivenes did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, I think I liked Ill Fame even better than his first book—something that came as an expected and welcome surprise.    

Detective Harm Queen is a somewhat gentler man in this second installment; equally as determined to perform his job well, but with fewer hard edges about him. He is engaged to Karoline, his true love, but his marriage plans are stalled when she is given a generous offer she decides she cannot refuse. Harm uses his unexpected free time to follow up on an opportunity to fulfill a promise to the late Dix Anderson, a character we are introduced to in the first book. Anderson is an old sheriff who had come to town to find his missing granddaughter, Maisy Anderson.

Harm goes to Minneapolis undercover in search of the girl. When he shows up at the brothel in which she supposedly works, it’s not Maisy he finds, but the last person he would ever suspect to see. This throws his personal life into turmoil. Add to this a charming and celebrated football star, a somewhat soft-hearted thug and political high jinx, and you’ve got the makings of a remarkable tale.

Rivenes is an author well acquainted with his setting. Although the story takes place in 1901, the reader is there, transported to a place with such intricate, but not over done detail. He weaves the storyline, including his colorful cast of characters, so seamlessly and smoothly that the reader is propelled along at a swift and eager pace.

At the end of the novel the author gives a little background into the history that went into the book. This is a very interesting addition to his work of fiction, and gives the reader some insight into the people, places, and events that he has written about. This novel is very well rounded, but thankfully open ended, Inviting the possibility of a third book into the series. Rivenes has recreated a very interesting, very entertaining world…one that I hope I have the chance to visit again soon.   

To learn more about Erik Rivenes, please visit his author page on Amazon and Goodreads.