Clayton Guthrie & Rachel Vasquez

Created by Alaric Hunt

“You’re a smart girl. You’ll figure it out…”
–Clayton’s ongoing advice to Rachel

Put your disbelief in the back, Jack, and get ready for one helluva ride. Cuts Through Bone (2013) was one hard-boiled rip, heavy on Noo York colour, slam-bang action and a breezy, slang-filled style that wasn’t afraid to strut.–it was one of the most thrilling debuts I’ve read, and an in-yor-face welcome to one of my favourite odd couple P.I. teams

CLAYTON GUTHRIE is a West Virginia shitkicker from Mingo County turned “respectable” middle-aged Manhattan private investigator; a “dirty, hungry and scabbed over… little runt” with an over-developed gift of gab and about a zillion contacts and sources he can draw upon, from the CIA and organized crime to a gaggle of wandering homeless people, and a real gift for empathy.

But what really kicked this gritty, zippy debut into overdrive is Guthrie’s straight-outta-high school apprentice, RACHEL VASQUEZ, a precocious chica from the Lower East Side who comes off as the long-lost offspring of Nancy Drew and Race Williams, who chucks her worried parents’ college plans for her, to go to work with the good ol’ boy fixer and go-between.

It’s all rather preposterous, of course, and the author’s attempts to add too much grit, depth and (so help me) relevance bog down the pulpy drive at times, but when Guthrie and Vasquez hit the streets, guns blazing, banging heads with crazed Russian gangsters or chasing crazed winos through abandoned subway tunnels far below the surface, who cares?

The plot might not be quite as strong as it could be, but it’s mostly just an excuse to put the dynamic duo through their paces, anyway.

And what paces!

Clayton’s an honourable man, a smooth operator with more than a few tricks up his sleeves (he speaks Yiddish?), while the fiery Rachel, who’s taken to wearing twin pistols like she just stepped out of the pages of Black Mask, is definitely nobody to trifle with. No wonder her over-protective Puerto Rican family  is worried sick. And what exactly are Guthrie’s intentions for their daughter, anyway? Like I said, suspension of disbelief may be the ticket here, but given how much fun this was to read, I’m hoping Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez have plenty more sleepless nights to come.

Cuts Through Bone nabbed the St. Martin’s Press/PWA Award for Best First P.I. Novel, and was followed in 2015 by Godless Country. Since then, Clayton has appeared a few excellent short stories in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.


After I had reviewed Cuts Through Bone for Mystery Scene back in 2013, I discovered that the author is currently serving a life sentence in a South Carolina prison for murder and arson (I try to avoid reading about an author or other reviews until I write mine). Coincidentally I discovered this while reading other (mostly negative) reviews of the book online (although he did also nab some very good ones), all of which felt obliged to mention the author’s situation. I’m just sayin’…

All I know is that that book rocked my world. And given the author’s circumstances, I’ll be grateful for anything else of his that gets out.


  • “Despite its modern touches, Hunt’s down-and-dirty debut harkens back to Sam Spade and other classic private eyes. It may be a little rough around the edges, but it drags you in and keeps you reading.”
    — Kirkus Reviews on Cuts Through Bone
  • “Hunt shows promise as a writer of crime fiction, and he’s proven that decades of incarceration have left his imagination unfettered. Here’s to hoping Hunt continues to refine his art, and that this art keeps him walking on a new path forward.”
    — RJ Cresswell on Godless Country (2015, Mystery Scene)



  • “Hidden in Shadow” (March/April 2018, EQMM)
  • “Borrowed Brains” (May/June 2020, EQMM)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Portions of this entry originally appear in a review in Mystery Scene. Used by permission of the author.

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