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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Cleaning Up Finn" Would Take a Truckload of Disinfectant

By Sarah M. Chen
160 pages
(All Due Respect Books; May 13, 2016)
eBook for Kindle by Amazon Digital Services LLC
ISBN: 1532902298

Finn Roose is one of those assholes who can fall into a big tub of shit and somehow comeout smelling like a bouquet of gardenias. He’s a college dropout, a drunk and loser who somehow plugged into the favor bank with Porter, a successful chum, years before and has been leeching off him ever since.

Finn is also an unscrupulous horn dog who uses his position as a manager at a popular chain restaurant to drop the hammer on every woman who has a hole, two tits and a heartbeat.

He’s the kind of guy you hate on sight. You don’t even need a reason.

But Finn finds himself up to his asshole in trouble after he fast talks a good-looking customer into a moonlight sex cruise on his buddy’s sharp yacht, complete with wine and expensive hooch.  He and the girl get snot-slinging drunk during the trip and she passes out. 

Too drunk to carry her to his borrowed sports car, Finn – who is damned near unconscious himself – leaves her in the grass near the boat’s moorage and goes home to pass out.

The girl vanishes and in the aftermath Finn learns she is underage and has ditched her parents for a visit to California’s sun-kissed South Coast.

His dalliance with the missing girl would have been bad enough by itself, but it also costs Finn the only real friendship he has  ever had:

“Porter held up his hand. ‘I’m not done.’ He hesitated as if gauging his thoughts. ‘You’re like a brother to me, Finn. We’ve known each other how long?’

“Finn cleared his throat. ‘Twenty-eight years,’ he said softly.

“ ‘Twenty-eight years.’ Porter paused. ‘We’ve been through a lot, Finn.’  

Finn waited, a sickening feeling growing in his gut.

“ ‘And I know you’d do anything for me,’ Porter continued. ‘Shit, you proved that already.’ ”

“Finn met Porter’s eyes. He felt himself nodding.

“‘I think about it every day. How I would have none of this if it weren’t for what you did.’ ” He

sighed. ‘But it’s got to stop, man. No more boat. And no more Ferrari. You’re on your own with your love trysts and hook-ups or whatever. I’m done.’ ”

He belatedly tries to track down the missing girl but finds himself trapped by his own lies and lax ethics. He lies to the police and a private eye and is in danger of losing his job in a way that will almost certainly leave him permanently unemployed.

When go bad, they march Roose lockstep right to the edge. His former friend is murdered, Finn finds himself being blackmailed and the humorless private dick becomes his personal Javert, trailing him night and day. He is starting to come apart at the seams when the entire plot takes a sudden wild left turn that puts his life at risk.

With his misadventures piling up to the point where they seem utterly beyond repair, he decides to turn over a new leaf.

“He was through with picking up women, through with being a selfish prick,” Chen writes. “No more hotel rooms, fast cars, and yachts. What good came of it besides thirteen stitches in his thigh and five more in his head? And of course, the unrelenting guilt.”

Unfortunately, the leaf he turns over is poison oak, and he instantaneously reverses his vow to go straight.

You have to read it to believe it. Some people really never really do learn from their mistakes.

Sarah M. Chen
 Sarah Chen has written many short stories I have really enjoyed, for publications ranging from All Due Respect to Plan B to Crime Factory, but in Cleaning Up Finn she gets an opportunity to open up the tale  and really get inside her main characters.

It’s a terrific short novel, well worth every penny it costs.


  1. Recently heard Sarah read @ Lit Up, in Orange County and bought Cleaning Up Finn the next day. I read it in a single sitting & enjoyed it. What stands out about Ms. Chen's writing is her economy of description & characterization. She gets a lot done with few words. Must be the short form fiction writer coming out. Will be reading more of her work.

    1. Hi Dirk, I just saw this comment now. Thanks for talking to me at Lit Up! and I really appreciate your support and review. Cheers!