S.J. Rook (The Ross Agency)

Created by Delia C. Pitts

The Ross Agency
Private Investigations
Lost? Missing? Cheated?
Your Problems–Our Solutions
— the agency’s business card

The Ross Agency is a tiny Harlem detective firm on the side of the angels, dedicated to offering affordable services to its clients, taking  those cases the police are too busy–or too indifferent–to solve. Things like tracking down lost husbands, wives and pay cheques. It’s run out of a former Chinese restaurant, the Emerald Garden, by wily neighbourhood altruist Norment “Old Man” Ross and his daughter, the far more pragmatic and comely Brina (short for “Sabrina”)..

It does okay.

Meanwhile, struggling itinerant barber SHELBA JULIO “S.J.” ROOK, a “stint in the army and a busted marriage” behind him, is definitely not doing okay. He’s new in town and flat broke, living in the Auberge Rouge, a rattrap fleabag of a hotel, most of whose tenants are working girls, drinking too much bourbon, and hoping his luck changes.

It does.

But not for the better. He doesn’t have much–his barber kit and a few clothes–but he loses it all when somebody torches “the Rouge,” and Colleen, one of the hookers he got along with, dies in the blaze. Prowling through the wreckage of her room after the fire, he discovers a business card for the Ross Agency in a small tin box.

Penniless and now homeless, he heads to the agency, curious, and improbable as it seems, ends up hired as a detective. And ends up the protagonist of a series of clever, entertaining mysteries, that draws heavily on solid and nuanced characterization, and a deep and vivid sense of setting. The author even tosses in a little romance between S.J. and Brina to keep things bubbling along, but don’t go expecting anything comfy and cozy here–that’s not the world the Ross Agency deals with.


  • “Rook is a modern, hard-boiled antihero; as the story carries on, he demonstrates ability, humility, decency, and respect and concern for Harlem and its inhabitants… Pitts lovingly illustrates what life is like in a vibrant Harlem, showing people from different walks of life, nationalities, and socio-economic statuses. The neighborhood features prominently not only as a setting, but as a character all its own.”
    Kirkus Reviews on Lost and Found in Harlem


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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