More than two decades back, author Susan Isaacs gave us a fiendishly clever suburban mystery entitled Compromising Positions. Now the housewife heroine, Judith Singer, is back for an encore performance in Long Time No See. Judith now teaches history at a local college, her husband has passed away rather unexpectedly and she has added a pound or so of avoirdupois for each intervening year. One thing that has not changed is the torch she still carries for former lover Nelson Sharpe of the Nassau County Police Department. The two will have the chance to work together again, and to fan old flames, as they investigate the disappearance of socialite Courtney Logan. Police attention naturally focuses on the husband, the son of a colorful underworld kingpin, but Judith thinks that is much too obvious. She utilizes her skills as a historian to piece together Courtney Logan's last known movements, and finds that each puzzle piece she unearths comes with its own set of unanswered questions. Longtime Isaacs fans, (and Janet Evanovich fans, for that matter) will find a lot to like in Long Time No See; there is a lighthearted tone, an undercurrent of romance and a twist you won't see coming.
Kinky Friedman, the iconoclastic author/detective (not to be confused with Kinky Friedman, the iconoclastic musician/raconteur to whom he bears a remarkable resemblance) is something of an acquired taste. His humor is coarse, his manner offensive, particularly where members of the opposite sex are concerned. His latest, Steppin' On a Rainbow is no exception. (The title is a Kinky-ism meaning, more or less, buying the farm, pushing up daisies or taking the long dirt nap.) As a character in a novel, the Kinkster has little or no redeeming social value, something akin to a larger but no more grown-up Bart Simpson, if Bart were Jewish and a New Yorker. Case in point: who else in contemporary fiction would offer a bawdy limerick about Mahatma Gandhi, which ends with the line or anything else that was handy ? Who else could offer the immortal lines: You can never quite get the smell of cat vomit out of a meerschaum pipe or I could imagine a number of things that would look good on her. One of them was myself. Does this sound as if I am not a fan of Friedman's oeuvre? Au contraire, mon frere. Nobody else in modern suspense fiction makes me laugh out loud with such regularity.
TIP OF THE ICE PICK
Total Recall, is perhaps the best Warshawski novel ever, delving deep into the history of ongoing character Lotty Herschel, a Jewish New York surgeon and Holocaust survivor. Lotty Herschel has been something of a mentor and mother figure to private investigator V.I. Warshawski for a number of years, a safe harbor for V.I. to return to when the detective's life gets a bit too hectic. Now it is Lotty's turn for some upheaval, as memories of her long-buried past are suddenly dredged up by Paul Radbuka, a strange man who claims to be a long lost relative. Radbuka's story checks out, on the surface, at least: he emigrated from Germany with his father to America after WWII and he has recently gone through grueling recovered-memory therapy which unearthed a chilling story of his tortured past. Clearly Radbuka is a bit of a loose cannon, and Lotty wants nothing to do with him. When Radbuka's obsession escalates into unwanted visits, phone calls and stalking, V.I. steps in to offer assistance, little realizing that a petty annoyance is about to culminate in murder. Total Recall is a complex and many-layered suspense novel, one of the most intense in recent memory, and worthy of our award for mystery of the month.
Nashville-based writer Bruce Tierney is a lifelong mystery reader.