Randy Roeder takes us back to Cedar Rapids of the Sixties in Sins of Intent, the first of a series featuring haberdasher-turned-amateur-detective Cletus Efferding.
I’ve lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa since the Eighties, and while that is much later than the period Sins is set in, many of the sights and places Roeder references were still around when I moved here. And Cletus’s movements around Cedar-Rapids-that-was ring true and accurately.
Cletus works in the Men’s Department at Killian’s, a retail anchor of Downtown Cedar Rapids for decades, but is also a dance instructor. It’s this second job that leads him to investigate the death of a fellow instructor and good friend.
Cletus is a fellow with heavy emotional and legal baggage, which keeps him in the sights of the local cops, even as he tries to get justice for his friend. Along the way, we learn of the tragedy that destroyed his former life, and we also watch him make several rookie (and in one case, racist) mistakes in his investigation. It’s a credit to Roeder’s character development that we still are rooting for Cletus as he bumbles along.
Cedar Rapids is just as much of a character in Sins as any of the people. And as the manager of Iowa’s only jazz radio station, I appreciate his inclusion of jazz players and jazz clubs in the novel, particularly the colorful Joe Abodeely, who makes a cameo toward the end, and whose shady business dealings were the inspiration for much of the novel’s action.
Sins of Intent is a worthy debut, and I will definitely be climbing back into Roeder’s Linn County Time Machine for Cletus’s next adventure.