(The Adventures of Hitchcock Brown)
by C. Martin Stepp
Walking Backwards is the first book in The Adventures of Hitchcock Brown series. Be sure to check out my blog post on the sequel, Two Thursdays.
Hitchcock Brown is a private investigator. The new detective novel Walking Backwards is the story of a recent case he has taken on. This case is so difficult that sometimes he feels like he is walking backwards. At times intuitive, at times witty and often humorous, this tenacious P.I. hopes to eventually solve this interesting case. He also hopes to survive long enough to do so.
I listened intently, or at least tried to put an expression on my face that would make it appear to my client that I was listening intently. When he finished speaking, I waited for a moment to see if he was going to elaborate on what “much worse” was. A few seconds passed, and I realized he had finished and now expected a response. I complied: “I don’t have enough information to completely rule out a ‘fling’ as you called it, but I have worked on countless domestic cases that did involve infidelity. This case does not seem to exhibit the usual elements of an extra-marital affair.” Marx was sitting there looking at me like he was only half listening, so I said: “I can keep working on your case if you like. It’s your money.”
That statement had the desired effect. Mr. Marx quickly rejoined me in the here and now. He obviously understood that he needed to make a decision; a decision that involved money, possibly a significant amount of it. I was happy to have regained my client’s full attention, but there was also a subtle look of consternation on his face. His mind worked like a fine piece of machinery; the kind with gears and cogs and ratchets. The kind of machine that can self correct for errors. When it hits a snag, it will repeat the cycle that occurred just prior to the malfunction with minor modifications. It will eventually clear the jam and allow itself to continue working normally. I waited patiently for Marx’s clockwork brain to reset itself and resume normal operation.
“Mr. Brown, I do want you to continue working on this case. I was hoping it would not come to this, but I think we need to have a serious conversation about the nature of what you may be getting involved with.” said Marx. “My company develops very advanced computer software. I won’t go into the finer details of the technology, but you need to understand the competitive nature of my business. There are multiple levels of complexity, copyrights and patents that weave a dizzying web of danger for someone in my position. In some cases, a single line of computer code is so important, it must be protected at all costs.”
Marx was speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully. I think he recognized the fact that some of this computer magic was a little more than this old private investigator could comprehend, and he was right for the most part. I was pretty sure the type of programming his company was engaged in would be a mystery to about 99% of the human population, so I didn’t even try to hide my ignorance. What I did say was: “Mr. Marx, client confidentiality is of the utmost importance to me.”
Marx replied: “I know. Your reputation pre-cedes you Mr. Brown. That is why I selected you for this case.” I just nodded to let him know I understood and appreciated his statement. “We are currently working on a project that is so important, it could revolutionize the world of computing and possibly the fragile nature of the world itself. Mitchell and I are both working on the program. It is so sensitive that we have each protected individual aspects of it. I cannot access some of the elements he has worked on and he cannot access mine. It is not very different from the two-key approach the government uses to prevent accidental nuclear annihilation.”
I think C. Stepp has a solid start with this first book. Hitchcock Brown's humor is a rare treat in a P.I. and makes you look forward to his next witty description. With his mysterious background as a "former prosecuting attorney" that we have yet to hear details about, we learn Brown's very methodical ways of discovering clues to solve his cases.
Mr Stepp has stubbornly not given us details on Hitchcock so that we are left to create our own image of the man as he works his way through the book. At times that is exasperating, but by the end of the book I felt in tune with Brown's mind, if not his physical presence.
While the ending is a bit predictable, the plot twists will keep you wondering if you could be mistaken. I laughed in places and frowned in other places as I followed Brown's investigative work. He made me crave a green salad and even a cup of coffee, which I don't normally drink, as he tried to figure out what the "young, yet adult daughter" and her father's married partner were up to. A quick and fun read on a dark and rainy day.
About the Author
C. Martin Stepp is a new author currently residing in Jupiter, Florida. He is working on a series of humorous detective novels featuring private investigator Hitchcock Brown. Walking Backwards and Two Thursdays are currently published. A third novel, Deadbolt, is in the works and should be published soon.
While writing has sometimes been a hobby for Craig, it has always been a passion. Having his work professionally published has always been a dream. Join the dream, share the passion. Read the books!
For further insights, read an interview with the author.