I just finished a V.I. Warshawski private eye novel, written by Sara Paretsky. Frankly it wasn’t that short of awful. So I go from that book to this one, and the difference was startling beyond comprehension. While Paretsky writes about 520 pages of Warshawski running around Chicago chasing bad guys and trying to solve teenagers’ problems, all very up-to-date and realistic (and very ham-handed on the politics), Fickling (actually a married couple) keeps the action tight and the character focused on catching the killer, or romancing the suspects.
Honey West is a private eye. Her father was a detective, and when he was murdered some time before the start of this novel, she vows to go into the same business with the ultimate goal of catching his killer. She hasn’t caught the killer yet, but in the meanwhile she’s got a client, and as the story starts he’s been killed. Since she was hired to protect him, and discover who was trying to kill him, she of course now has to find out who killed him under her protection. He was a washed-up actor who had once won an Oscar but was now down on the skids. One of his old friends had tried to get him a job working on a TV show, and the old friend has had an attempt on his life too, so of course he hires Honey to protect him.
The story takes off from there. I won’t ruin it by telling you more of what happens, except to say in passing that it involves a girl dancing on a bar “wearing only the captain’s cap”, when said bar is in the middle of a swimming pool on a large yacht, chases across Catalina Island, and a very unusual game of strip poker. People get killed, there are fights, and clues abound, with a dizzying plot to follow and suspects all over the place. Every time you think you know who did it, they get killed. The actual killer turns out to be unexpected (at least to me) and I enjoyed the whole thing a great deal.
This isn’t the sort of book that will win any literary awards. It’s a certainly a page-turner though. I read it in the course of an afternoon and evening. Books like this are, in one way anyway, what detective novels are supposed to be: light entertainment without any redeeming social value, just something to distract you for a short period of time, divert your mind from the real world. Highly recommended.
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