Review: “Signatures” by James A. Hetley

Urban fantasy. Noir mystery. A gritty narrator whose brand of sarcastic humor keeps you entertained. Welcome to “Signatures,” the newest release by author James A. Hetley.

About the Book

Cover art: "Signatures" by James A. Hetley
“”Signatures” by James A. Hetley

John Patterson is a retired detective turned private investigator. He’s also a wizard, one of the many found working for local and state police departments, as well as the FBI. Since retirement, Patterson has made his living taking on various cases from private clients, using his magic to help solve them. Through the business and alcohol, he tries to dull the reminders that he was the man who sent his former love to prison – and of a homicidal wizard named Kratz who he thought he killed years ago.

Nef Cash was Patterson’s last trainee on the force. She knows Patterson is likely the only man who can solve the city’s latest homicide, and she visits him in his office to ask for his help. The murder has the markings of the killer Albert Kratz. The victim’s organs are arranged artistically outside of his body. Kratz’ murder scenes were always one-of-a-kind works of “art.”

But Kratz is supposed to be dead. He was burned alive in a building fire set by Patterson and his partner. Yet, his signature is at the scene. Patterson can taste him. He can smell him at the scene, then later outside his apartment. His office. But how did Kratz not die in the fire? And why did the latest murder seem like a clone of one of Kratz’ other homicides instead of the originals for which he was known? Patterson is determined to figure it out.

My Review

There’s no doubt that Hetley’s “Signatures” will appeal to both urban fantasy and noir mystery fans alike. The wizards, witches, and magic will delight those who love urban fantasies. The gritty and gruff Patterson as the narrator will remind noir mystery fans of their favorite 1960’s pulp fiction novels. “Signatures” doesn’t straddle the two genres without fully immersing itself in one or the other like some other books attempt to do. Hetley has written a novel that readers of both genres will enjoy. He may even create noir mystery fans from urban fantasy lovers– and vice versa. If they manage to read the entire book, that is.

Hetley use of italics to put emphasis on words spoken by the narrator gets tiresome early on. Despite the fact that both the narration and dialogue are strong and capable of carrying the reader through, Hetley seems to disagree. He italicizes words frequently throughout the novel. Although he clearly meant to help the reader “hear” the story, he ends up creating distraction after distraction instead. There’s nothing like becoming immersed in a story, then having the author yank you out of it. Yet, it feels like that’s exactly what Hetley does throughout the book.

“Signatures” has the potential to be a reader favorite. It has the potential to garner endless five star reviews and top at least a few bestseller lists. However, it’s not quite there yet. “Signatures” needs another edition, one where Hetley’s obvious talents as a fiction writer aren’t overshadowed by his attempts to also be a director.

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