The Hammett Hex
Victoria Abbott     

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Book Collector
Book: 5

The national bestselling author of The Marsh Madness takes rare book collector Jordan Bingham on a trip to San Francisco—home to Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes—where nothing is as it seems.
On a getaway to the City by the Bay, book collector Jordan Bingham becomes entangled in a mystery with more twists than Lombard Street...

Jordan has been able to swing a romantic trip to San Francisco with Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker on one condition—she must return with a rare copy of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest for her irascible employer, Vera Van Alst. For his own part, Smiley is full of surprises. He’s a Dashiell devotee himself—excited to be in the city of Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes like Sam Spade and the Continental Op—and also announces he plans to visit his previously unmentioned estranged grandmother, who lives in an old Victorian in Pacific Heights.
But the trip goes downhill fast when Jordan is pushed from a cable car and barely escapes death. And when a dark sedan tries to run the couple down, it’s clear someone’s after them—but who? Just like in Hammett’s world, nothing is quite what is seems...

Jordan Bingham loves her job locating rare first edition books for wealthy collector Vera Van Alst, but she needs a break. Jordan hasn’t had a vacation in over two years, but it’s still a challenge to convince her dour employer that she should be excused from her duties for a week. Jordan finally gets permission from Vera to take the trip to San Francisco that her boyfriend Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker had planned, but only when Jordan agrees to mix business with pleasure while on her trip and search for a first edition book by Dashiell Hammett for Vera. Jordan and Smiley’s romantic trip soon turns into a working holiday for Smiley as well, when he and Jordan’s hotel rooms are broken into and an attack is made on their lives!

The Hammett Hex is the fifth book in the Book Collector series. Each book has featured a classic mystery Jordan uses the skills and logic needed to locate rare collectible books to also solve crimes. The plot and atmosphere of each installment takes on characteristics of the titular author, such as prior book The Christie Caper which was more of a gentle cozy. In this book, Jordan and Smiley’s adventures read like a Hammett noir novel, form the great Victorian houses in the wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood to back alley bookstores in more marginal areas of San Francisco. I’ve enjoyed each book in the series, but new readers can definitely enjoy the book without having read the others. I’m not as familiar with Hammett’s works as I am some of the authors featured in prior installments of this series, but I still enjoyed the references to the author and the characters in his books and the parallels to the what Jordan and Smiley were experiencing.

I have liked Jordan from the very first book in this series. She was raised by her uncles who love her more than anything, but question her legitimate lifestyle and involvement with a police officer since they want her to be a part of the family business, which is often on the opposite side of the law. I have also had mixed feelings about Smiley, although not for the same reasons as Jordan’s uncles! I questioned his feelings for Jordan and wondered if he could get past her uncles’ questionable activities, but in this book, he seems very devoted to Jordan. The two work well together figuring out who wants to harm them and protecting his grandmother with whom he recently reconnected. He was even tolerant, if not overjoyed, when Jordan’s charming, but troublesome Uncle Kev ended up in the middle of their investigation. Since Smiley is so important to Jordan and plays a large role in this book especially, having him come across as more likeable helps make the book more enjoyable. Smiley is coming around, but Jordan frequently continues to hold some things back about her family, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in future books. The investigation ended on a high note for Jordan and Smiley, so even though this book just came out, I’m already looking forward to the next in the series.

~ Christine