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THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT
Private investigator Jack Pellum has spent two years searching for the man he believes murdered his wife -- a man he last saw wearing a peacoat and a fedora. Months of posting fliers and combing through crime records yield no leads. Then a local writer commits suicide, and he leaves a bewildering message that may be the first breadcrumb in a winding trail of unsolved murders . . .
There's a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.
Michael Underhill is a philosophical man preoccupied by what-ifs and could-have-beens, but his life is finally coming together. He has a sweet and beautiful girlfriend, and together they’re building their future home. Nothing will go wrong, not if Underhill has anything to say about it. The problem is, Underhill has a past that's shrouded in darkness, and it’s coming back to haunt him.
These two men are inexorably drawn together in a mystery where there is far more than meets the eye, and nothing can be taken for granted. Filled with devious reversals and razor-sharp tension, The Man in the Crooked Hat is a masterwork from “one of America’s best new crime writers” (Lansing State Journal).
Pub. date: November 28, 2017
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Reviews of THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT
> Publishers Weekly (*Starred review, October 2, 2017):
"Set in Detroit, this relentless thriller from Dolan (The Last Dead Girl) focuses on an ex-cop’s search for the man who murdered his wife. Two years after Jack Pellum’s beloved Olivia, a photographer, was strangled near the Huron River, Jack remains obsessed with finding the killer, whom he believes to be a man wearing a fedora he saw watching her a few days before her death. He continues to blanket the city with flyers bearing the suspect’s image. Then Carl Dumisani, his former partner, reports that someone has written, “There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat,” on the wall near the body of a recent suicide. This news leads Jack to Paul Rook, who thinks that his mother was killed by Olivia’s murderer. Dolan has a gift for making the circumstances of even minor characters moving, such as a 30-something man resigned to a meaningless life working in a coffee shop. Superior prose, plotting, and characterization put Dolan in the top rank of crime novelists."
> The Washington Post (November 28, 2017):
"Grief can carry a heavy burden, burrowing into the heart, obliterating other concerns, sometimes even self-preservation, as Harry Dolan shows in his clever fourth mystery, 'The Man in the Crooked Hat.'
"Jack Pellum carries that load nearly two years after his wife, Olivia, was found strangled near the Huron River in Detroit. Obsessed with finding the murderer, Jack lost his job as a police detective and has eschewed just about every chance his father, a prominent judge, offers to get his life back on track, including the private detective license his dad secretly arranged for him.
"Jack is fixated on what-ifs. What if he had accompanied his photographer-wife that day when she went to take photos in the park? What if he had done something when he saw a man wearing a fedora a few days before Olivia was murdered? Meanwhile, Jack spends his days putting up fliers with the man’s likeness, most of which are soon ripped down.
"The man in the hat is Michael Underhill, whose identity is revealed in the first chapter. Michael also is consumed by what-ifs, though his past is much darker — and more violent — than Jack’s.
"Jack’s investigation jumpstarts when he learns that an author painted on his living room wall “There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat” before committing suicide.
"Dolan skillfully sends Jack’s investigation on a circuitous route that includes the murders of others that may — or may not — have been committed by Michael. Along the way, Jack teams up with Paul Rook, a young man convinced that his mother also was murdered by the man in the hat. For Jack and Paul, Michael becomes a quasi- bogeyman, always 'on the edge of things,' and they sometimes wonder if he is a phantom. But Michael thinks he’s just an ordinary guy who has just met a wonderful woman he believes he may marry.
"'The Man in the Crooked Hat' expertly splinters into several investigations and delivers parallel stories of Jack’s quest and Michael’s rebuilding of his life. Each plot tendril blissfully leads to the next as Dolan illustrates intelligent plotting. A hint of humor and a flair for the ironic also elevate the story." -- Oline H. Cogdill
> The Wall Street Journal (December 8, 2017):
"Jack Pellum, the 35-year-old ex-cop and alleged private detective featured in Harry Dolan’s The Man in the Crooked Hat (Putnam), is also seeking revenge, though he tells himself it’s justice he is after. He has left the Detroit police force to devote himself to the unsolved case of his own wife’s murder. His private-eye business is little more than a front, made possible by his father — a federal judge who wishes his son would resume a more practical and respectable life. 'They want to pretend . . . this unpleasantness never happened,' Jack says of his too-proper parents. 'Having a murdered wife is bad form.'
"Jack does his best with the only lead he has, plastering the city with a sketch of a hatted man he saw acting suspiciously near his apartment before his wife’s death: 'Have you seen him?' Someone has — a fellow obsessive who thinks that the man in the crooked hat is linked to another murder and to several other past killings. Jack and his semi-partner expand their inquiries into neighboring towns and decades-old crimes, drawing other police officers, active and retired, into their investigations.
"Mr. Dolan is a skillful writer. His well-balanced story is full of tension, sorrow, suspense and a lingering sense of uncertainty. Jack comes to doubt just how related all these violent occurrences are. Yet of course he cannot stop, with his wife’s killer still at large. And that killer, to whose identity the reader is privy, is well aware of Jack’s progress. In the course of his gripping tale, Mr. Dolan makes even his strangest and most vile characters understandable — not to excuse but to explain them, with appropriate measures of pity and terror." -- Tom Nolan
> Raleigh News & Observer (November 12, 2017):
"Ex-cop Jack Pellum is obsessed with finding his wife’s killer. He posts fliers daily and checks all homicides in the city for similarities. His fixation on the killer’s hat seems insane, especially since he’s seeing a psychiatrist. But then he learns of a suicide where the note mentioned a killer in a crooked hat, and this is the key that eventually pulls his farfetched theories solidly into the realm of reality.
"We also follow the killer as he falls in love and tries to tie up loose ends (including Pellum) so he can settle down and transform into a good guy.
"Harry Dolan has it all: deeply drawn characters, even the 'bit parts'; settings sketched in with deft detail; and a plot that winds back on itself for a satisfying solution." -- Salem Macknee
> Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (October 12, 2017):
"The title of Harry Dolan’s The Man in the Crooked Hat (Putnam, out Nov. 28) speaks volumes. Set mostly in Detroit, this is an unpredictable mystery with an off-kilter plot and distinctive characters. Jack Pellum is a Michigan PI on a mission to find the man in the crooked hat who he believes murdered his wife. Jack’s investigation uncovers connections to two other murders 20 years earlier where a witness also saw a man in a hat. But is he the same person? Related? Or has Jack’s obsession taken on a life of its own? With deft dialogue propelling its plot, you’ll need to, well, hold on to yours."
> Huffington Post (November 28, 2017):
"The Man in the Crooked Hat [is] a multi-layered, suspenseful mystery-thriller with nuanced characters guaranteed to propel the plot and hold any reader's interest."
-- Mark Rubinstein
> BookReporter.com (December 1, 2017):
"THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT, Harry Dolan’s latest mystery, sinks the hook from the first page and leads the reader -- step by step, word by word -- in a forest that is at first dim, then dark, and always unsettling....
"I started to recommend THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT to a friend of mine who quickly told me that he no longer reads serial killer novels. Let me state at the outset that this isn’t quite one of those. Readers familiar with Dolan’s work know to expect the unexpected from him. He is a master at letting readers make their own predictable assumptions and then toying with them for a bit.... This is a book that, once you start it, you will want to finish without delay or excuse." -- Joe Hartlaub
> CriminalElement.com (November 27, 2017):
"Have you ever started a book and just knew it was going to be really, really good? That’s what happened with this one.... Dolan is a fantastic stylist, adding an almost old-fashioned noir feel to a contemporary thriller. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the man Jack is looking for wears a fedora, bringing to mind the best black and white thrillers of old. Surprising and frequently terrifying, you won’t be able to put this one down." -- Kristin Centorcelli
> BookPage (December 2017):
"Harry Dolan can be counted on to craft seamless thrillers, and his latest, The Man in the Crooked Hat, featuring dogged detective Jack Pellum, does nothing to break his streak."
-- Bruce Tierney
> RT Book Reviews (December 2017):
"Jack Pellum is a man hunting down the monster who killed his wife. Vengeance and despair drive Jack as he unravels the layers of a killer’s lifetime of work. The clues come quick and you may miss a few if you’re not paying close attention. Each new character is cleverly crafted with some backstory that moves the plot forward. The pacing is swift, and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, leading to a final showdown between Jack and the cold-hearted killer who ruined his life...." -- Sandra Martin