About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Cobra Clutch by A .J. Devlin

Cobra Clutch by A .J. Devlin- “Hammerhead” Jed is enjoying a banana milkshake (a milkshake is the favoured drink in his family) at the DQ with aging professional wrestler, Johnny Mamba. Jed is a bouncer and former pro wrestler. Mamba, the victim of a reptile-napping. is calling on a favour owed. His pet python, Ginger, has been stolen from his locker and a $10,000 ransom demanded.

Mamba is a hard man but everyone loves someone (something) and he will pay anything for Ginger’s safe return. It was touching, not a joke, that a snake could be so important in his life.

Jed had justly earned his nickname in the wrestling world by breaking a 2” x 4” board over his head after winning a match.

Aiding Jed is his cousin, Declan St. James, only a few years removed from Ireland. He is famous in downtown Vancouver for his ability to pour the perfect Guinness (including a shamrock in the foam) and picking fights when he has had too many Guinness.

Jed’s father, Frank Ounstead, a massive retired police detective owns the Emerald Shillelagh Pub and operates a private investigation firm.

Mamba is wrestling with the XCCW (X-Treme Canadian Championship Wrestling). While impressively titled the XCCW is far from the glamour and money of the WWE. Its wrestlers often perform in venues with dozens of seats. The owner, Bert Grasby, XCCW is shrewd and sleazy.

The members of the XCCW are a colourful group of characters. I have not watched professional wrestling for a long time. In Cobra Clutch Devlin portrays the matches as physical theatre. The performers work hard and frequently suffer injuries in their shows. With my background in judo I appreciated the skillful use of leverage.

Jed has a hard time getting anyone to take his investigation seriously.

Matters become very serious when a ransom drop goes badly. Both Ginger and Mamba are dead. Mamba’s throat has been slashed.

There is a brilliant scene of a necropsy (reptile autopsy) of Ginger. She died from ingesting a rare methamphetamine.

The lovely Detective Constable Rya Shepherd will lead the murder investigation for the Vancouver Police Department.

The busty Stormy Daze, Mamba’s ex-girlfriend and a XCCW star, is ready to be comforted over her loss.

When photos demonstrate Mamba was having an affair and Stormy publicly threatened the other woman Stormy rises to the top of the suspect list.

Jed finds the P.I. work more interesting than expected. He has been stoutly resisting his father’s invitations to join him in the business.

The violence is at an American noir level. There is a double digit body count.

The story flows easily in the tradition of the best tough guy P.I.’s.

There is deft jabbing wit. The bulky, oft banged up Jed is referred to as “McDreamy”.

Jed is self-deprecating.  Explaining his appearance to a police inspector:

“Don’t let the shaggy mop and designer stubble fool you, bub,” I said.
“This is a carefully crafted look.”

I was reminded a lot of Sam Wiebe’s tough guy sleuth, Dave Wakefield, who also works the mean streets of Downtown Eastside. Dave and Jed would have a good time together.

In a cover blurb Sam described the book as “intense and cinematic”. I would agree. Cobra Clutch would be well suited to being made into a movie.

Devlin’s master’s degree in screenwriting and subsequent experience as a screenwriter are evident in the dialogue.

Devlin is an excellent new young Canadian crime fiction author. I definitely want to read the next in the series. (I would recommend a more attractive cover for his next book.)


  1. I was thinking of Same Wiebe's work when I read this, Bill. This one sounds as though it's very much in the same vein (different, of course, though, as the authors are different). I don't know much about professional wrestling, but it's an interesting backdrop for a crime novel. And I do like an author who can weave in some wit into a gritty sort of novel like this. I may hav to check this one out.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Professional wrestling gives him credibility as a genuine tough guy. Wit does relieve the darkness. I will be interested in your thoughts if you read Cobra Clutch.

  2. Bill, even for hardboiled fiction, "Cobra Clutch" seems like a rather unusual novel with an intriguing cast of characters. One does come across such characters in noir fiction and movies but, I suspect, not very often.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. Intriguing is a good word for the characters of Cobra Clutch. They are memorable.

  3. Well that's an unusual setting and subject matter! Sounds very promising.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I think it might capture your interest. Not a lot of clothes in the wrestling world unless you like garish outfits and, in this book, not many of those.

  4. Thank you Bill for reviewing Cobra Clutch and everyone for commenting and considering giving it a read! I had a lot of fun writing it and definitely tried to emulate the kind of action-comedy escapist entertainment I grew up on as a kid. If you enjoy the book then save the date for Spring 2020 as that is when the sequel will be released. Happy reading!

    1. A.J.: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to the release in 2020. If you can send me a message at that time I would appreciate hearing the particulars.

    2. Will do Bill and thanks again!