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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
In Shirts and Skins by Michael D. Urban, Carlos, a disgraced former judge now working as a PI, is drawn into an investigation by Otto, an old acquaintance, concerning thefts and murders within the Northeast Pilgrims football organization. Despite Carlos's questionable history, Otto trusts his discretion and offers him a substantial fee. Carlos discovers security difficulties due to a lack of surveillance cameras in private areas and teams up with an undercover FBI agent named Jesus. They attend a mysterious party at Otto's house, where Carlos becomes romantically involved with his neighbor, Elyse. Carlos and Jesus delve into connections between Otto, stolen sports gear, biotech firms, and Chinese espionage. After Carlos is attacked by an unknown assailant, they collaborate with a team of agents to investigate further and encounter a murder in Chinatown. Carlos forges an alliance with the head of security, Mr. Freeze, and with Elysse’s help, continues to probe, leading to a risky mission at Otto’s house, another murder, and a final showdown at the Northeast Pilgrims home, Razor Stadium.
Shirts and Skins by Michael D. Urban is the first book of the Carlos Pulaski Mystery series, which Urban delivers on the heels of his Zach Colt Adventure series. All of Urban's novels read as standalones, but I'm grateful to have gotten my hands on the introductory installment, as I lost no time in understanding Carlos's judicial background. Given that my husband works at the Supreme Court, I have a bit of extra love for characters who have rapped a gavel. Urban develops the characters well through action and dialogue, with Carlos having multiple interactions, including one I've never seen anywhere else: with a guard at a cemetery gate that requires his negotiation skills. There's a lot of showing over telling, and it is something I genuinely appreciate since it allows for an authentic immersion. There's some romance, a link to football, betrayal, and a twist that I couldn't see coming. I love that the ending leaves room for the next mystery and perhaps a nod to international intrigue, and I look forward to seeing where Urban takes us next. Very highly recommended.