James P. Hillton, Sophia Blossom & Madeleine V. LaCroix

Created by Andrew McAleer

“James P. Hilton could have gotten fat on Wall Street with his old man, but like most rebellious Harvard boys, he became a private investigator instead. This is his story.”
— the opening of Double Endorsement

Lock the doors, here comes trouble.

Slacker private eye JAMES P. HILLTON , his partner SOPHIA BLOSSOM, and high-priced Boston shyster MADELEINE V. LaCROIX are a mismatched detecting team that more than one sharp-eyed critic has compared — and usually favourably — to none other than Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Hillton (two ls, please) and LaCroix have a peculiar relationship — they bicker, they crack wise, they argue, they get on each other’s nerves, they occasionally flirt (despite the fact she’s a good thirty years older) and, oh yeah, somehow they usually manage to crack the case and see that justice is done every now and then.

James is more than a little quirky. He’s laidback, a joker and a pun-lover, something of a disappointment to his old man. He’d rather play hockey (defense with his pick-up league), crack wise or just sit and drink organic green tea (his latest kick) than actually work. Definitely a march-to-his-own-drum kind of guy. But prodded into action (usually by Madeleine), he gets results. Apparently he’s not quite the doofus he appears to be. And his partner, the drop-dead gorgeous SOPHIA BLOSSOM, isn’t quite the blonde ditz she first appears to be, either.

Meanwhile, Madeleine is ambitious and predatory, a sharp-eyed (and possibly sharp-toothed), high-flying attorney with a swank office in prestigious Fox Club Building in Copley Square, who knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it. She’s constantly calling on Hillton to go forth and do battle on behalf of her clients.

Their initial appearance, in 2003’s Double Endorsement, is a punchy little romp, smart and savvy, a surprisingly brisk and literate little gem full of wit and humour. It could well be the start of a great series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed — in these days of bloated, four and five hundred page mysteries that plod on slower than the continental drift, it’s a genuine pleasure to see someone get in and out in less than 200 pages, and still manage to tell a great story.

In fact, Hillton and Sophia did indeed return, in Bait and Switch in 2005.


A lawyer himself, author Andrew McAleer is also the author of Appearance of Counsel, and served as the editor of Crimestalker Casebook (1998-2006). An active member of the Private Eye Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America, his work has appeared in numerous mystery publications. His legal essays include a critical analysis of the Lizzie Borden Grand Jury and the History of Suffolk Law School. He is the 2003 winner of the Speckled Band’s Sherlock Holmes Revere Bowl Award.

And sure, the sparks that fly between James and Sphia may have been lifted from Moonlighting, but  the undeniable Rex Stout influences on Hillton and LaCroix come naturally–Andrew’s father, John McAleer, was the author of the much-acclaimed biography Rex Stout: A Majesty’s Life (1977). In fact, in 2007, Andrew published Mystery Writing in a Nutshell, a series of tips, pointers and suggestions that he compiled with his father.


  • “An intricate and original private eye mystery. Andrew McAleer’s Double Endorsement grips the reader’s attention from start to finish and is one of the most humorous novels I’ve read in a long, long time. A wit and pace reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.”
    Robin Moore, author of The French Connection



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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