Blunt Darts by Jeremiah Healy. The other Mary Kay Kare recommendation, mentioned in the previous post. Blunt Darts is the first of a series of books about John Francis Cuddy, a former insurance investigator turned down-on-his-luck private eye (he was fired for refusing to falsify a report, shortly after the death of his wife).
This is much more in the Robert B. Parker (see, for example, Looking for Rachel Wallace) vein than Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?. It’s set in Boston, with a very strong sense of place, the narrator lovingly describes his workout routine, and the investigation is pretty much a thud-and-blunder job, with a minimum of other characters. In fact, the author acknowledges his debt to Parker in a more direct manner than you usually see:
The red light on my telephone tape machine was lit, but I decided it could wait until after dinner. I washed the chicken down with two Molson Golden Ales and settled into an easy chair with one of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. I had read four pages when a telephone in the novel began ringing. Memory jogged, I put the book down, walked to my telephone machine, and replayed the short message. I replayed it several times. The muffled voice on the other end said only the same one word each time:
That’s vintage Parker, down to naming the brand of beer, and throwing in a direct reference to Parker in that scene was extremely odd.
This is more than just Spenser Lite, though. For one thing, Cuddy’s not as preposterously macho as Spenser is– he does beat a couple of people up, but he also gets pushed around a fair bit, something that hardly ever happens to Spenser. He’s also considerably more human in his reaction to people and events in the story.
A major element of the plot is reminiscent of a Chandler novel, but it would be a spoiler to explain how, or say which one (if anyone’s interested, post a comment, and I’ll explain it there). As a private eye, Cuddy is also considerably closer to Marlowe than Spenser is. Sadly, the prose doesn’t sing the way Chandler’s does, holding much more to the sparer style used by Parker. Still, it was a good read, and I’ll check out some of the other books in the series. Mary Kay is two for two…
(Originally posted to The Library of Babel)