Lucky Town Tells a Houston Detective Story

Set in the Bayou City and beyond, Peter Vonder Haar's debut novel sparkles with wit and local tidbits.

By Holly Beretto September 24, 2019

Writer Peter Vonder Haar has always been a fan of crime fiction, devouring spy novels and mysteries. So, it was perhaps unsurprising that when he sat down to write his first novel, he says, “that genre felt right.”

The result, Lucky Town, published earlier this summer, is a Houston-set thriller about a pair of twins, private investigators Cy and Charlie Clarke, who set out to find their missing brother, who is being investigated for a murder at the State Department. So far, the book’s doing well among the reader-reviewer set on Amazon and Goodreads, garnering praise for its portrayal of Houston, its snark and humor, and its quick-paced plot.

Vonder Haar will be familiar to Houston readers from his work reviewing movies and concerts for the Houston Press. And, given how Houstonians love to love Houston, it’s a safe bet they’ll dig seeing their city in a starring role. That, says Vonder Haar, was by design.

“We’ve not had a lot of books set in Houston,” he explains. “I wanted to give readers a sense of what it’s like to live and move around here. The story incorporates the city’s vastness into the narrative.”

That narrative takes Cy and Charlie from downtown to The Woodlands to Galveston, as the pair try to figure out whether their brother actually committed a crime. To do so, they’ve got to bring their own experiences to bear—Cy’s as a former cop and Charlie’s as a white-hat hacker. Vonder Haar says he brought pieces of his own personality to Cy and Charlie, but that as he wrote, some developments took shape.

“The secondary characters took off in ways I didn’t expect,” he says. “One brother is a force of mayhem, and it was fun to write his character.”

Vonder Haar’s novel should prove satisfying for readers of genre fiction and lovers of Houston. In addition to the praise it’s garnered for its fast pace, those who’ve read Lucky Town reference what a fun read it is. “This is the best first novel I’ve read in a long time!” raved one on Amazon. “This should be required reading for everyone in Houston.” Meanwhile, the Houston Press noted it’s “Everything we look for in a good mystery: salty language, well-developed characters, a harrowing climax and a formula that lends itself to sequels and even a prequel.”

And, as it happens, Vonder Haar's mystery is set up to be the first in a series, so we just might see more of team Clarke in the future. He self-published the novel, which he says allowed him to get it into readers’ hands faster. It’s available on Amazon Kindle.

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