REVIEW: Charlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak

Series: N/A; part of the Hard Case Crime releases

Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: noir, hard-boiled detective, US mystery, heist story, multiple timeframes, murder

Quick Review: A beautifully plotted, satisfyingly simple heist and murder novel. Highly recommended for noir fans!


A group of criminals in 1946 pull off the heist of the century, stealing a dozen priceless works of art from a Boston museum. But while the thieves get caught, the art is never found. Forty years later, the last surviving thief gets out of jail and goes hunting for the loot, involving some innocent college students in his dangerous plan – and thirty years after that, in the present day, the former college kids, now all grown up, are drawn back into danger as the still-missing art tempts a deadly new generation of treasure hunters.

CHARLESGATE CONFIDENTIAL is a heist novel that spans 3 different time periods, drawing in a host of characters around a heist tale turned deadly, in this fascinating novel by Scott Von Doviak.

This is the third of the Hard Case Crime novels that we have reviewed (check out reviews for FOREVER AND A DEATH and SOHO SINS). This series is not a series of related stories; instead, it is a selection of stand-alone novels that capture the spirit of vintage crime fiction with a hard-boiled, noir feel. Don’t let the covers mislead you — this series has, in our experience, produced a number of crime fiction gems that will make you nostalgic for your favourite old detectives.

This instalment does not disappoint. CHARLESGATE CONFIDENTIAL has many perfectly noir elements. Part of this novel — the original heist — deals with a gang-related plot in Boston to steal priceless artworks, and is set in 1946, classic black-and-white gangster territory. In addition, in the contemporary timeline, you have a hard-boiled detective who is clever, has a failing marriage, and occasionally plays fast and loose with the rules when it gets him what he wants — although sometimes it gets him in trouble!

There is also a third story timeline in this novel, set in 1986, which follows student journalist Thomas Donnelly as he investigates some of the rumours surrounding the Charlesgate for a story in the student newspaper. While it sounds like it would be confusing to follow as each of these timelines unfolds in alternating chapters across the novel, Von Doviak has done an incredible job of tying them together, with a perfectly satisfying ending. It’s genuinely a pleasure to watch these separate stories link up.

And part of that comes from the characters. A character from each of the timelines bleeds into another timeline, to keep the story believably tied together. Beyond that, Von Doviak has turned the location, The Charlesgate Hotel/Dorm/Condo depending on the timeline, into its own character, full of unexpected quirks and secrets. Its presence is palpably magnetic throughout the novel.

CHARLESGATE CONFIDENTIAL is a wonderful, intricate, and satisfying detective read. Definitely pick this one up!

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