Shane Cleary

Created by Gabriel Valjan

He used to box.

He used to be a soldier.

He used to be a cop.

He used to be a lot of things.

But when we meet private investigator SHANE CLEARY in his promising debut, the appropriately titled Dirty Old Town (2020), he’s not exactly setting the world on fire. He’s living in his South End office, with his cat Delilah to avoid his landlord. Seems his apartment rent is overdue.

It’s 1970s Boston, and it’s a grim, dirty place. Shane lives and breathes a side of Beantown that Parker’s Spenser, older, wiser, cockier and more successful, only visited.

Oh, there are differences, for sure. Shane’s a product of foster care, after his parents died. Joined the Army before he could be drafted, became a grunt in Vietnam (Spenser’s war was Korea). A “short stint” with the Boston cops. A bad jones for the girl who married his rich buddy. A little PTSD.

But both Shane and Spenser take on their town with the same battered moral code, jaundiced eyes and jaded commentary, speaking with a “rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”

And they “love that dirty water”.

If you recognize either of those quotes, you know what to expect from this series, and better than most, the author delivers. There’s an open-ended grittiness here and a battered sense of honour and loyalty (or just bull-headed stubborness) that suggests Shane will be sticking around this dirty old town for a while.

Keep an eye on him.


  • “Robert B. Parker would stand and cheer, and George V. Higgins would join the ovation. This is a terrific book–tough, smart, spare, and authentic. Gabriel Valjan is a true talent–impressive and skilled–providing knock-out prose, a fine-tuned sense of place and sleekly wry style.”
    — Hank Phillippi Ryan on Dirty old Town
  • “Warning: Pick up a copy, turn the page, and you’ll be hooked. Liar’s Dice ticks all the boxes: an interesting tale that’s economical and tight, descriptions that are full and rich, dialogue that’s real, and characters that spring to life. Gabriel Valjan just has a way of making every word count.”
    — Dietrich Kalteis



  • June 8, 2023
    The Bottom Line: It’s 1970s Boston, and an angrier, younger, more cynical private eye lives and breathes a side of Beantown that Parker’s Spenser only visited. Keep an eye on this guy.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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