The Night Men by Keith Snyder
(Jason Keltner Mysteries)

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Quirky, whimsical and musical, this fourth Jason Keltner mystery...weaves past, present and passages from a fictitious book into more of a magical mystery tour than a mystery.

The friendships forged in the fires of youth are often strongest, and those formed by Jason and Roberto and Martin, three California boys, have survived into adulthood. A call from a gay friend whose newly opened Brooklyn music store has been vandalized spurs Jason to action. And the likelihood that it was a hate crime calls to mind the events that caused three very different high schoolers to bond years ago. With an assist from Roberto, who flies in from the west coast, Jason embarks on a bizarre quest to find out who was behind the vandalism and determine the meaning of a strange Web site that uses the name of the music shop. The original adventure that brought the boys together and their current challenge are told in tandem with readings from a pulp novel of great importance to them. The resulting search for the mysterious Inscrutable Whom, the restoration of the Magic Music Shop and the resolution of the vandalism make for a "coming of maturity" tale that complements the coming-of-age story of their first meeting.

Snyder's approach to the mystery is highly original, and both his characters and the setting he creates are engaging and effective. This is a title that needs help finding its audience, but it might win cult status when it does.


In his third [sic] outing, (Trouble Comes Back, 1999, etc.), Jason Keltner, musician, makes it clearer than ever that he is also Jason Keltner, wannabe warrior whose bible is his treasured copy of The Night Men, a pulp fiction novel in which Tom Carter—p.i., latter-day knight-errant, and authentic hard guy—takes a bare-knuckles approach to moral ambiguity that Jason would love to emulate, if only he had the same bare knuckles. But Jason's no quitter. When the call for help comes in from his friend Zeb, proprietor of the Magic Music Shop, he rushes out instantly even though it's the dead of an icy winter night, the Brooklyn Bridge is treacherous even for a foot crossing, and there's nothing he can do to reverse the no-holds-barred vandalizing that has reduced Zeb's shop to rubble. Is the trashing the mindless, homophobic hate crime that at first glance it seems? Or is it somehow uglier and more complex? Truly, it's a case for intrepid Tom, whose motto, incidentally, is the unabashedly chivalric "when you can't save yourself, save someone else." Driven by healthy dollops from The Night Men, the story moves back and forth in time as Jason chases the answers. Tom's terrific, sure, but flawed, floundering Jason is infinitely more likeable.

Though billed as "A Jason Keltner mystery," it's not much more than mystery lite. Instead, it's really a belated coming-of-age story—Jason's 30-something—that's frequently funny and at times surprisingly moving.


Over the past 43 years, Walker has brought us such authors as John Creasey, John le Carre, Marcia Muller and, most recently, Keith Snyder — one of a handful of contemporary mystery authors willing to experiment with structure and style. In fact, Snyder's book The Night Men stands as one of the best of 2001, despite its lack of formal award nominations. In it, Snyder took a true risk and penned a mystery novel without a murder, creating an homage to the form that featured a beautifully rendered book-within-a-book. By showing how his young characters are forever changed by their first experience with the hardboiled genre, Snyder vividly illustrated why crime fiction matters.
—Katy Munger

About Keith Snyder

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Snyder is an author and composer.
Published September 27, 2010 by Unknown. 300 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Night Men

Publishers Weekly

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Quirky, whimsical and musical, this fourth Jason Keltner mystery (after 1999's Trouble Comes Back) weaves past, present and passages from a fictitious book into more of a magical mystery tour than a mystery.

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Book Reporter

In THE NIGHT MEN, the fourth novel in the Jason Keltner series, author Keith Snyder juggles two stories and a novel within a novel to construct a mystery that asks the question: Can teenaged boys find a worthwhile role model in a fictional hardboiled detective?

Jan 01 2002 | Read Full Review of The Night Men (Jason Keltner ...

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