If your idea of a great murder mystery includes nerve shattering suspense and a plot that will keep you guessing until the very end, you need look no further this spring than Alan Orloff’s latest novel, Killer Routine.
The story revolves around a comedian named Channing Hayes who lost his fiancée in an auto accident. Hayes runs a comedy club and is mentoring his fiancée’s sister Heather, who wants to be a comedian too. When a killer targets Heather’s past lovers, Hayes has to protect her while finding the killer.
Orloff has constructed a well-tuned, twisty mystery here which is no surprise considering his background in engineering. But one does wonder why he chose to create a humorist protagonist. He says the choice allows him to explore that fine line between comedy and tragedy.
“A lot of very successful comics have a hidden—or not-so-hidden—dark side,” Orloff says. “I’ve always admired people who can get up in front of a crowd and make them laugh. Very difficult and very terrifying. Plus, what could be better than having to watch Comedy Central in the name of research?”
Orloff says he’s too chicken to ever attempt standup comedy. He also seems surprised that he has become a writer, considering that he hated all his English classes. What drew him to the author’s life?
“The one thing I can point to is my love of books,” Orloff says. “I’ve always been a voracious reader—and not of the classics. I inhale genre fiction.”
The write-up in Kirkus Reviews states that good-hearted characters are what make this book a winner. As you might guess with a character that loses his fiancée tragically and is working to defend her sister, the story has a strong family theme.
According to Orloff, “Hayes grew up as an only child of a single mother, and he strives to make close connections with friends, as substitutes for those relationships he didn’t have growing up.”
And before you make any assumptions, Channing Hayes is not based on any particular comedian you might recognize.
“I tried to make him a likeable guy,” Orloff says. “Loyal, generous, honorable, responsible. He’s got a very distinct moral compass and he’s determined to do the right thing, even if he has to put his own well-being on the line. Since he’s a comic, he does have a cynical side that he’s not afraid to express.”
Killer Routine is the first in a planned series about Channing Hayes, and the second outing will continue the family theme. Orloff spins out the kind of straightforward prose and characters with character that will be very familiar to fans of classic private eye novels. So if you’re a fan of Robert B. Parker’s Spencer or John D. MacDonald’s Travis Mcgee, you’ll be right at home in the middle of Killer Routine.
Alan Orloff’s latest release, KILLER ROUTINE, is the first in the Last Laff mystery series, featuring Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past (Midnight Ink). His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD (also from Midnight Ink), came out last April. A former engineer, marketing manager, and newsletter editor, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two children. For more info, visit his website and blog.