With Miami Blues, veteran crime fiction writer Charles Willeford introduces Miami Homicide detective Hoke Moseley who has to rank as one of the most unique and interesting fictional homicide cops ever to work a case. He's middle-aged, divorced, poverty-stricken (because of the divorce) and living in a crappy hotel room. He's not particularly attractive and has little luck with women. (Did I mention that he wears dentures which he seems to be losing all too often?) Still, for all that, he's a very sympathetic character and you can't help rooting for the guy.
As the book opens, an ex-con named Junior Frenger arrives at Miami International. Junior is a psychopath with big ambitions and as he's walking through the airport, he accidentally kills a Hare Krishna who has annoyed him. Junior steals some luggage, checks into a hotel and makes a date with a hooker. The hooker turns out to be a fairly spacey community college student named Suzie Waggoner who immediately falls for Junior's line of B.S. and moves in with him.
Hoke Moseley is assigned the murder case and manages to track down Suzie and Junior whom he suspects of the crime. Proving it will be another matter altogether, and the dynamics among the three principal characters are very interesting and entertaining.
This is an off-beat crime novel with moments both serious and hilariously funny, and fans of crime fiction who haven't yet discovered Willeford might want to search out this book. Fortunately, the entire Hoke Moseley series has recently been released in brand-new editions which are easy to find.
As a final note, an excellent movie was made from this novel, starring Alec Baldwin as Junior and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Suzie. Fred Ward plays Hoke and is perfectly cast in the role. This is one of those rare cases when the movie really does do justice to the book.