By Benjamin Jones

He could be the hot new thing: John March, the preppie PI. March, the hero of Peter Spiegelman's novel Black Maps, comes from a family of stockbrokers, and interned on Wall Street before becoming a sherriff's deputy in upstate New York. The Old Money aspect gives March some novelty, and gives numerous other characters an escuse to call him "rich boy." But Spiegelman's strength isn't the new twist he gives the detective genre, but rather some old tricks that a lot of writers have forgotten. Keep the reader guessing who the villain is. Don't explain everything that happened in the past, and when you do explain it, keep some things hidden. Don't tie up all the loose ends. Include at least one jovial psychopath. Make no mistake, Spiegelman knows what he's doing. This is a knotty tale of blackmail and backstabbing among the financial elite. March, who's a little like a trad PI and a bit of a workaholic yuppie, gets into enough fights to splatter his blue blood all over town. But he's not stupid enough to go looking for them, just a bit unlucky. Very unlucky, although attorney Mike Metz, his client-in-chief, seems to be a good friend. Overall this is an auspicous debut.