Mark Desmond

Created by Ernesto Spinelli

“I don’t know much, but I do know this: the only things that matter are those stupid little rules each of us makes up just so we can find some way of navigating ourselves through life.”

It’s 1980, the crash-and-burn of the idealistic sixties and the morning-after hangover of the Me Generation seventies are only starting to dissipate, just in time for yet another social and cultural upheaval, with  Reaganomics, Thatcherism, AIDS, and personal computers just around the bend. Meanwhile, brooding private eye MARK DESMOND of Jefferson City is on the case, narrating his way through a densely worded debut in Scorpio’s Children (2019). He’s hot on the trail of the daughter of Jacob Bergman, one of the city’s wealthiest citizens. His job? Get her away from Scorpio’s Children, a dangerous cult.

But the book isn’t your typical hard-boiled wandering daughter job. Mark’s a wordy, philosophical bugger, and at times the book feels like tentative notes to a long-winded lecture for a class you didn’t sign up for, embracing philosophy, psychology, psychotherapy and sundry other topics. The prologue, in particular, is a brain-clogging bit of existential wankery that reads like someone took a few too many hits on the bong, but once you hit Chapter One, things pick up considerably.

The author’s no Raymond Chandler or Ross Macdonald, although I’ll bet he’s read  both of them, and despite a slow start, he’s cobbled together an ambitious and satisfying series kick-off that, for better or worse, aims a little higher than your average P.I. novel. Not that he always hits his mark (Desmond’s habit of talking to a framed black-and-white of Sigmund Freud as a form of self-psychoanalysis is a little too cutey-pie for me), and the writing tends, as I said, to bog down occasionally, but Desmond is a compelling character nonetheless, and the story’s a good one.

Even better is that as the series has progressed, the writing has sharpened, and the third novel, Everything Has a Price (2023) delves into the world of comic collectors and fanboys (and has a kick ass cover to match).


The author comes by the wordiness naturally, I guess. Ernesto Spinelli was born in Rome, grew up in Montreal (bien sur!) and currently lives in London. He is a practising existential psychotherapist and the Academic Dean of the School of Psychotherapy and Counselling at Regent’s College, London which is the principal centre for the analysis and development of existential-phenomenological thought and practice as applied to the related fields of psychotherapy, counselling and counselling psychology, and the author of such page turners as Practising Existential Therapy: The Relational World, The Interpreted World: An Introduction to Phenomenological Psychology and Tales Of Unknowing: Therapeutic Encounters From The Existential Perspective: Therapeutic Encounters From An Existential Perspective.

By the way, despite the very really existence of a Jefferson City in Missouri, the author assures me that Desmond’s home town of Jefferson City is entirely fictional and should not be confused with any actual city in the US.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

3 thoughts on “Mark Desmond

  1. Hi. Thank you so much for the review. Just one thing though: I’m not sure where you got the “Missouri” from. Jefferson City, in Mark Desmond’s world at least, is in an unnamed Mid-Western State.

  2. My apologies to Jefferson City, Missouri. I will make sure that it’s made clear in the second Desmond novel that his Jefferson City is in the state of fiction.

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