Crackle and Fire Tour: Angela Hardwicke, Intergalactic Private Eye

Angela Hardwicke, Intergalactic Private Eye

By Russ Colchamiro


I love private eyes. Always have. Part detective, part crime stopper, part secret agent. And lots of mystery. 

And yet Angela Hardwicke, my hard-boiled PI who has now appeared in eight of my books, seemingly came out of nowhere. Then again, doesn’t that sound like a private eye?

An amalgam of Doctor Who, Blade Runner, and Philip Marlowe, Angela Hardwicke first appeared in Genius de Milo, the second in my Finders Keepers sci-fi comedy backpacking trilogy, which might seem an odd place for a private eye to show up in the first place. 

Loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand with a buddy of mine, Finders Keepers is a Bill and Ted-style about two loveable knuckleheads running around the globe having zany adventures, while simultaneously mixed up in a quest for a jar containing the Universe’s DNA.

Finders Keepers was supposed to be one and done, but I left it open-ended, and ultimately followed up with the sequels Genius de Milo and Astropalooza, with the scope of the three-book narrative far exceeding my expectations.

When Hardwicke first shows up in Genius de Milo, it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance, but I knew even then I was onto something, so Hardwicke played a much larger and significant role in Astropalooza. After that I was utterly hooked, and knew I’d be writing Hardwicke stories again.

Before I gave her a stand-alone novel, however, much less her own series, I put together an anthology called Love, Murder & Mayhem—I served as editor—collecting 15 stories from as many authors contributing a range of sci-fi mysteries. It was in this collection I wrote my first Hardwicke short story, “The Case of My Old New Life and the One I Never Knew,” about arson in a rock club in the galactic realm of Eternity.

Since then I’ve written a half dozen Hardwicke short stories, taking her from one end of the Cosmos to the other, with cases about a massive helix of the Universe’s DNA, rerouting Halley’s Comet, a whodunnit in a daycare center, and a case about an AI on death row, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure,” which appears as a bonus story at the end of my first Hardwicke novel, Crackle and Fire, on sale officially September 1.

On the surface, Crackle and Fire has Hardwicke tracking down an intern from a galactic accounting firm who has disappeared with sensitive corporate files.

Yet the mystery, as these things do, becomes much larger than Hardwicke ever envisioned—

she soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

Dig even deeper, though, and you’ll find that Crackle and Fire is as much about Hardwicke having to make a critical decision—can she be an intergalactic private and all that comes with it and be a mother to her young son who, for reasons I won’t share now, is not in her care?

It’s a critical question for Hardwicke, and the answers don’t come easy.

As you can see, Hardwicke and I have been getting to know each other. It’s been a great relationship so far, but we’re just getting started. Hopefully you’ll come to know her, too.

Crackle and Fire is Hardwicke’s first novel, with many more deadly cases yet to come. I’m working on the sequel now, and it’s a doozy. 

The only question for you is: are you ready for the ride?

Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (Book One)

Expected Publication Date: September 1st, 2020

Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery/ Fantasy


Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye.

She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.

When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her soul.

“Crackle and Fire elegantly combines PI noir with science fiction and fantasy.” — John L. French, author of The Magic of Simon Tombs

“Angela Hardwicke is one of the most memorable characters in detective fiction.” — Sawney Hatton, author of Everyone is a Moon


BONUS STORY INCLUDED! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”




Pre-Order Link:



Gil surprises me. I just assumed we were headed to the Breslin, Anders & Li headquarters. I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to case the joint, see how I might sneak back in later. 

Instead we shoot across town, to the Nova District. Gil leads us into Dante’s Pizzeria, then flicks his eyes at the aproned guy behind the counter. 

Without a word, counter guy buzzes us through a steel door in back, that leads down a flight of stairs, then through a hallway drenched in the aroma of hot pizza and fresh garlic knots. 

Gil slides back an accordion gate, which opens into a narrow elevator with copper plates. He punches in a series of raised buttons on the wall mount and pulls on a mechanical lever. Rather than descend farther into the basement, the elevator rotates 180 degrees, then opens into a small room with chipped brown walls. We approach the door adjacent to us. 

Gil holds his ID tag up to—I’m not sure where the surveillance camera is—but there’s a buzzer. The door opens in.

Gil surprises me again. With all this cloak and dagger I expect a room filled with high-tech gadgetry, including buttons, lights, and a team of engineers milling about. Instead there’s one guy—late-20s, plump, glasses, bowl haircut with shaggy bangs—sitting behind a drafting table with no drawers. The room is well-lit, with peach walls, various plants, a blue sofa, white coffee table with books, magazines, and 3-D tablets on top, and a window view of the sun sparkling off the ocean. 

The seascape is a hologram—we’re deep inside the bowels of this building—but I can’t tell the view from the real thing. 

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think we’re in the waiting room of a boutique travel agency. Maybe we are.

“Clancy,” Gil says. “How’s it hanging?”

“Low as my left toe,” Clancy says without looking up from the screen. 

“I hear ya. Listen, Clance, I gotta new recruit. Need to see if she can handle the jump. Mind if she goes? You know how it is. Newbies.”

“Love to help, Gil, but I’m kinda busy.” 

I’m not sure watching intergalactic parkour constitutes as busy, although I get the appeal. It is pretty cool. 

“Sure, sure,” Gil says. “But Dino just pulled out a fresh pie. Pepperoni and olives.”

Clancy looks up. “I’m listening.”

“Now that I think about it… extra olives. Extra pepperoni. Extra mozzarella.”

“Aaaand…?” Clancy leads, raising his voice. His eyes follow.

“Grape soda. Extra-large. Pie’s waiting.”

“You got twenty minutes. Then I need the room.”

I wait until Clancy leaves. “This is the way to Earth? Come on.”

“Don’t be fooled. Clancy’s a top-flight technician. And what you see,” Gil says, “isn’t always what you get.” 

He sits down at the keyboard, punches in a code. There’s a hum, a whir, and a series of vibrations. A glass chamber unfolds from the wall. 

“That’s clever.” 

“We’ll see. In you go.”

“Twenty minutes isn’t enough time, Gil. It might take a while.”

He waves me off. “You can be there a minute, a day, a month, or a year. Doesn’t matter. But whenever you come back, it’ll be like you never left. You’ll be back faster than I can blink.”

“All right, then,” I say, not convinced his timeline will play out as he’s purporting. Only one way to find out. “Let’s do it.” 

Gil approaches. He’s standing close. Too close. He reaches up to my left ear, his breath hot on my neck. Instinctively, I grab his wrist. “What’cha doing there, Gil?” 

“I need to place this tracker behind your ear. All you have to do is tap it once, and no matter where you are on Earth, what’s happening at the time, or how long you’ve been gone, it’ll instantly transport you back into the chamber, to this very moment. It’s how it works.”

The last time I had Gil in my grip, he was frightened. Now it barely fazes him. Maybe I’m losing my touch. Or maybe he’s getting used to me. I release his hand. “Go ahead,” I say. On the tip of his finger he presses what looks like a contact lens behind my left ear. I feel it dissolve under my skin. 

“It’s in,” he says.

Gil sits back behind the terminal. He gestures for me to enter the chamber. I do. He punches in a series of commands.

“It’s called a Cressa tab. This will send you to Earth, to Arthur’s house. You’ll arrive no more than one minute after I brought him to Eternity. I can’t send you back before or during my recruitment of Hanson. It’s VCP protocol. We can’t interfere with that timeline or it initiates an automatic lockdown and pulls you right out. But when you arrive there, he will have just left.”

“Got it. How will I know if”—I’m now standing in Hanson’s living room—“it worked?”

Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro


Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.


Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.


He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.


Author Links:






You may also like...