This is Steven Jay Schwartz’ second crime novel about Hayden Glass, a Los Angeles detective. Glass also happens to be a sex addict, which adds a fascinating dimension to the story. This is actually the second novel about Glass, the first of which is Boulevard. While I haven’t read the first novel, I would consider Beat to be a stand-alone novel; even though some of the events of Boulevard are alluded to, at no time did I feel lost (and I usually hate to read book series out of order for this very reason). The only downside is that Glass is still dealing with trauma he experienced in the first novel and has a pre-existing relationship with a female character that becomes more important as Beat progresses.

Readers should be aware that this is a dark book, with graphic violence and sex throughout. Neither is gratuitous, in my view; both are central to the plot and the characters, after all, but this is certainly not a book for the squeamish.

Plot spoilers follow.

Glass has become obsessed with a young prostitute he’s fallen in love with. He’s met her online and he begins traveling to San Francisco to have sex with her in the brothel where she works. Just one problem: she works for a Russian mobster and finds out far too much about the mobster’s business arrangements, feud with his scumbag brother, and the corrupt cops involved with the San Francisco sexual underworld. Glass tries to save the girl, but she’s kidnapped by mobsters and Glass spends the rest of the book trying desperately to rescue her, all the while dealing with his sex addiction and getting in deeper and deeper with FBI and SFPD investigations into all concerned.

Glass isn’t subtle, and he is braver than he is smart, but Glass’ investigations proceed fairly realistically, and at no time is the reader’s intelligence insulted by a ham-handed or silly plot. My only real complaint in this regard – other than the generous gun collector friend-of-a-friend who has an arsenal of every gun ever invented and is willing to loan them all out – is that Glass early on receives a gunshot wound, goes to the hospital for treatment, then proceeds to get the stuffing beaten out of him another half-dozen times in the book by Russian mobsters. A normal human wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed for a weak after the initial injury, but hey, I guess the protagonist a little larger than life, so it’s not a huge deal.

I don’t know all that much about sex addiction, but it seems to be dealt with in a realistic fashion here. Glass certainly abuses alcohol as well, and may be a growing alcoholic as the story advances, so there were several occasions where it was initially unclear to me if he was imagining the events unfolding around him or if these represented reality. This very well may have been by design.

The book was good enough that I plan to seek out the first book about Hayden Glass. The hints and characters we hear about from the first book are intriguing enough that I definitely want to know more. I also think that Schwartz is an author to watch out for. Highly recommended, I give this one 4 stars out of 5.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for a review. This has not influenced my review in any way.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers