Deep Threat (Billy Beckett #1), by Scott Pratt and Kelly Hodge

Eight stars

Having long been a fan of Scott Pratt, I was sorry to hear of his passing last year. That being said, it would seem his family and Kelly Hodge have worked tirelessly to get some of Pratt’s final manuscripts published for his adoring fans. This books proves to be the debut in a series that could (?) span at least a few books, should Hodge and the powers that be allow it. Billy Beckett is a sports agent with a passion for the job. Having once worked in the legal field, Beckett knows the pitfalls of dealing with agreements and negotiating settlements. Beckett has been trying to pave the way towards signing college football superstar Jarvis Thompson, sure to make it in the NFL. After a decisive upset win now Saturday, Beckett’s brother, John, is found in a pool of blood and Jarvis was the last person seen with him. While John is somewhat vague about what happened, the cocaine found on his person tells quite a story. Add to that, Jarvis Thompson is nowhere to be found. Was there some drug-related skirmish or has something happened to the college star? Not wasting any time, Billy Beckett takes up the search, which leads to interesting evidence and whispers about a mob boss in New Orleans. As the country holds its collective breath, Billy must find his potential client while uncovering a larger plot that puts him in the crosshairs. An interesting launch of a new series that permits Scott Pratt to go out with a bang. Those who have come to enjoy Pratt’s work will likely enjoy the collaborative effort and want to get their hands on this piece.

It’s always troublesome for a reader to discover that an author they enjoy has passed away, particularly when there is a body of unfinished work. A few authors I follow have had others pick up the torch and ruin a series, as if they were ‘Bourne’ to act as kamikaze author. Hodge seems not to be intent on ruining much of anything, having shaped and sculpted this debut in Pratt’s image. The humour is there, as well as the quick wit and great narrative delivery. With a potential series in the making, one needs to focus some attention on Billy Beckett, who has all the tools to serve as an interesting series protagonist. He is surely dedicated to his craft and enjoys rubbing elbows with the sports elite, wooing them at every turn. However, a connection to the mob, albeit tangential, could prove to be a fallback for Beckett as the series progresses. There is much to learn about Beckett’s backstory, which I hope Hodge will develop throughout the coming novels, but the fact that I am curious serves to show that there is potential here. Others make their presence known in this series that is full of unique characters who enrich the story in their own way. Pratt’s use of Tennessee is here in spades, with many holding onto that southern passion. There are a handful of characters whose stories I hope will be built upon, as they would make wonderful supporting characters, given the time. The premise is still one that I am not sure I am sold on, though how does one use a sports agent to serve as regular investigator. I am sure Kelly Hodge has a plan and I am willing to give him a chance to show it, if for no other reason than I thoroughly enjoyed the work of the late Scott Pratt.

Kudos, Messrs. Pratt and Hodge, on a great start to the series. You will be missed, Scott, and I can only hope this will get others interested in checking out some of your solo work, as well as seeing where Kelly takes things!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: