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It is 1949.

 

Max Chambers, a not-very-successful private investigator based in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York, is forced to confront his wartime nightmare—the death of his childhood pal and the liberation of the infamous Nazi death camp, Buchenwald. With the help of his comical partner, Gino Domenico, and his plucky young secretary, Sally Connors, Max is faced with tracking down war criminal, Karl Schmitt, the former commandant of Buchenwald.

 

Using clues provided by a former inmate of the death camp, Max and his crew face danger at every turn in an adventure that takes them on a whirlwind tour of the country. This is a case that threatens the happiness of Max’s marriage and the security of his close-knit Italian family.

 

 

REVIEWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Chambers P.I.: The Case of the Nazi Ghost

Michael J. Cinelli

Xlibris, 149 pages, (paperback) $19.99, 978-­1-­5434-­4264-­9

(Reviewed: January 2018)

 

Michael Cinelli’s slim novel offers all the fundamentals of a noir private eye story: a detective in a small office with a feisty female assistant and a trusted sidekick, and a plea for help from a client he would rather turn down, but for the wad of cash he’s offered. And Max Chambers P.I. slips in some surprising elements as well.

The book opens with a group of American GIs rescuing Jewish prisoners from Buchenwald concentration camp at WWII’s end. Max Chambers, a private detective who ends up leading his patrol when his sergeant is killed, is traumatized by the skeletal survivors and the odor of death that permeates the camp, as well as the subsequent death of a fellow GI and childhood friend.

Four years later, Chambers has opened a detective agency in his hometown, New Rochelle, New York. He has a beautiful wife who is shy in public but a tiger in bed and a supportive extended family. But then a man he rescued at Buchenwald hires him to find the camp’s commandant, who is allegedly hiding in New Rochelle. While Chambers doesn’t want to relive the terrible war memories, he finds himself tracking a conspiracy of postwar Nazis in his own backyard.

Cinelli’s writing style is in the noir mold: short, snappy and evocative: “Max opened the large window behind his desk and breathed in the cold air. He still had the horrid smell of the camp in his nostrils, in his office, in his mind. He knew he was trapped in this business.” The author races readers through a story that weaves typical P.I. fare – stakeouts, fist fights, car chases, and evil antagonists – with complex threads of Nazis and thugs and a surprise ending that brings closure to Chambers’ Buchenwald trauma.

The Case of the Nazi Ghost is a satisfying, quick romp of a read. It will leave readers hoping for future volumes featuring Chambers and his likable supporting cast.

Also available in hardcover.

 

 

Max Chambers P.I. The Case of the Nazi Ghost

Michael J. Cinelli

Xlibris (Aug 18, 2017)

Softcover $19.99 (164pp)

978-1-5434-4264-9

 

Max Chambers P.I.: The Case of the Nazi Ghost is an entertaining and character-driven adventure, an affectionate and compelling nod to genre classics.

 Postwar nightmares become deadly realities for a soldier back from World War II in Michael J. Cinelli’s fast-moving 1940s private-eye thriller Max Chambers P.I.: The Case of the Nazi Ghost.

Private Max Chambers returns home to his family in New Rochelle, New York, after the war. He is haunted by his experiences liberating a Nazi concentration camp and by the death of a friend and fellow soldier. Unbeknownst to him, both traumatic events will be front and center in his first case as he goes into business as a private investigator.

In many ways, Max Chambers is a classic 1940s private eye. He’s tall, handsome, delivers wisecracks well, and is handy with his fists. In other ways, he’s not so typical: he is a devoted family man, quick-tempered rather than cool and professional in the face of injustice, and is learning his investigative techniques on the job, through trial and error.

These departures from genre types result in a protagonist who is both sympathetic and vulnerable. Other characters are drawn with a dash of the unexpected. Chambers’s secretary, Sally Connors, is bright, plucky, and attractive—but also seems to have a better intuitive grasp of how to investigate than her boss does.

The plot revolves around Chambers, his sidekick, Gino Domenico, and Connors. They follow clues, undertaking a cross-country chase after a Nazi war criminal who Chambers thought had died during the war. Changing locales, action (including violence), and snappy, often humorous dialogue keep the narrative moving.

The story also explores life in an Italian American family. When Chambers ends up in the hospital after a brutal, vividly written encounter with a Nazi thug, his parents visit:

 

“Massimo, Massimo,” cried Mama Chambers as she hugged him tightly as only a mother could. “We

were so worried for you. I was a-terrified. I brought you a prosciutto sandwich.”

 

These turns speak cultural volumes; while other family life scenes are more overt in detailing what happens and how characters feel, they less acutely evoke the warmth of the family dinner table, amid the laughter, yelling, and eggplant parmigiana.

While the plot is action-packed and filled with colorful characters, the narrative also offers serious themes. Chief among them are the Holocaust and what Chambers sees as the passive complicity of non-Jewish German citizens. Another issue is discrimination. Italian American Chambers opens his detective agency after unsuccessful efforts to join police forces that he believes are due to his heritage. These issues are woven into the fabric of the story and give it an underlying emotional impact.

Despite its serious undertones—or perhaps in part because of them—Max Chambers P.I.: The Case of the Nazi Ghost is an entertaining and character-driven adventure, an affectionate and compelling nod to genre classics.

GARY HENRY (January 16, 2018)

 

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.