Sweetie Fairbairn, the doyenne of Chicago society, is known for big-hearted philanthropy and magnificent soirees in her penthouse high atop one of the city’s premier boutique hotels. Dek Elstrom is hired by a mysterious man in a long limousine to investigate the death of a clown. Was it suicide—or murder? What is the connection between the dead clown and Sweetie?
Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Illinois.
I came across this novel while I was searching my library for books to include in my 2014 reading challenge; it was the only one by this Author on their shelves and immediately cried out to me. Heeding that cry, I brought it home… am I glad I did.
The main protagonist is everything there is to love, and hate, in the character of a private detective, or should that be insurance investigator; to find out what this means you’ll have to read the book. He is full of the dry sarcastic wit and one-liners that a lover of a traditional mystery novel will find to their taste. He is, or thinks he is, invincible, not easy fooled and a tough guy to boot; but really as we find out as his character develops in this novel, he is more than a little vulnerable. There is so much about this man that reminded me of Philip Marlowe, that I wasn’t but a few chapters into this novel before I found myself really rooting for the guy, and wanting everything to go his way. There are a cast of supporting characters for our main to play off against, but rather than let his main character overshadow them, the Author does an excellent job of making sure that the others he encounters either bring out the best him in, stop him from totally self-destructing, or really bring out his hard side; whatever their role they are written with equal parts of grit and humour and enough realism to make the reader feel as if they actually lived.
The plot is quirky and funny wrapped up in a pretty page turning mystery that will keep you guessing to the end. I finished this book in one sitting, and when I finally came to the closure of the plot all I could wonder was ‘how the heck did I not see that coming’. The Author is also able to inject a touch of realism into the locations of his novel by throwing the reader pieces of plot that link to past, or current, news items. Normally I don’t like this in the fiction I read as I hate being distracted from a good plot by the feeling I’ve seen this in the paper, but that was not the case here. I think the difference between this novel and others that I’ve read that attempted this was the fact that this Author wrote about these events with the same with as he did his plot.
A downside to this book, I found, was that it actually the third in a series containing this protagonist; however, this did not make me like the book any less or feel I was missing out on anything, as it works just as well as a standalone novel. What this discovery did achieve however, was to ensure that I will be reading more by this Author.
If you are looking for a writer who has a similar style to Raymond Chandler, I highly recommend this novel. If you’re looking for a good traditional mystery, well see the sentence above this one.