“Mess Hopkins, proprietor of the seen-better-days Fairfax Manor Inn, never met a person in need who couldn’t use a helping hand—his helping hand. So he’s thrown open the doors of the motel to the homeless, victims of abuse, or anyone else who could benefit from a comfy bed with clean sheets and a roof overhead. This rankles his parents and uncle, who technically still own the place and are more concerned with profits than philanthropy.
When a mother and her teenage boy seek refuge from an abusive husband, Mess takes them in until they can get back on their feet. Shortly after arriving, the mom goes missing and some very bad people come sniffing around, searching for some money they claim belongs to them. Mess tries to pump the boy for helpful information, but he’s in full uncooperative teen mode—grunts, shrugs, and monosyllabic answers. From what he does learn, Mess can tell he’s not getting the straight scoop. It’s not long before the boy vanishes too. Abducted? Run away? Something worse? And who took the missing money? Mess, along with his friend Vell Jackson and local news reporter Lia Katsaros, take to the streets to locate the missing mother and son—and the elusive, abusive husband—before the kneecapping loansharks find them first.”
Award-winning author Alan Orloff has ten published novels as well as having his short fiction included in many publications.
This is being called book one of the Mess Hopkins series, which I hope means we’ll see the protagonist of this book staring in more stories in the future. Yes, people really do call him Mess. He’s got a real name which I’ve forgotten, but you’ll see it mentioned once or twice if you read the book. His mom started calling him Mess when he was a kid and it stuck as a nickname. With a name like that it makes sense that he runs a family-owned dive motel. He’s the boss there. In reality he has a manager who takes care of most of the important stuff while Mess is causing and then getting out of various messes. (Not what his mom had in mind when she nicknamed him that.) While the manager likes to rent the rooms of the motel out to paying customers, the number of actual paying customers tends to be fairly small, at least partially because Mess makes a habit of offering free temporary housing to those in need.
While there are a few other people Mess helps in this book, the main story focuses on a mother who flees an abusive husband with her teen son. Mess gives them a place to stay while mom figures out her next steps. Then things get complicated putting Mess in the position of trying to work out a few mysteries when the Mom disappears and other unexpected things happen. I liked the mystery and suspense aspects of the book which ultimately define the genre of the story, but I also found Mess and his approach to life and helping people to be a positive in the story and an interesting springboard to the main parts of the story.
A small amount of adult language.
Review is based on an ARC (advance review copy), so I’m unable to gauge the final product in this area.
Rating: **** Four Stars
Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words