Book Reviews: Now You See It by Jane Tesh and The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

Now You See ItNow You See It
A Grace Street Mystery #3
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0196-7
Hardcover

Delightful, pleasant, encouraging, a fine summer read. This is the third episode in Ms. Tesh’s third series of mystery fiction novels. Praise for Stolen Hearts and Praise for Mixed Signals are the first two. Magic, magicians, jealousy, competition, theft and murder. All served up in carefully proportioned amounts with just the right amount of suspense, suspicion and sanguinity. What’s not to like?

In brief, private investigator David Randall is hired to search for an artifact that may have historical significance. A local night club that features magic acts on its stage is the scene of the apparent theft. The missing object once may have belonged to the legendary Harry Houdini. While our earnest PI begins his search for clues to the missing object, he begins to encounter a surprising array of jealous actors, off-beat club workers and assorted hangers-on.

Meanwhile, Randall’s friend, Camden, seems to be losing his voice, Cams girlfriend, Ellin, is beset on several sides, Randall’s girl, Kary has become a magician’s assistant wannabe. Confused? Well, trust me it all gets sorted out in the end in logical ways. Oh, mustn’t forget to mention a major complication, the body discovered backstage in the trunk.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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The Black-Eyed BlondeThe Black-Eyed Blonde
A Philip Marlowe Novel
Benjamin Black
Henry Holt and Company, March 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9814-3
Hardcover

John Banville, the Irish author here writing under his pen name of Benjamin Black, has written a book certain to give exquisite pleasure to the many fans of Raymond Chandler and his creation, LA private detective Philip Marlowe with a reputation as a “thinking man’s detective.”. The masterful re-imagining is evident from the first words: “It was ‘one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the air of something that knows it’s being watched. Cars trickled past in the street below the dusty window of my office, and a few of the good folks of our fair city ambled along the sidewalk, men in hats, mostly, going nowhere.”

The eponymous woman makes her first appearance moments later. “Her hair was blond and her eyes were black, black and deep as a mountain lake, the lids exquisitely tapered at their outer corners. A blonde with black eyes – – that’s not a combination you get very often.” As Marlow later summarized things, he is “hired to look for a guy who was supposed to be dead. Next thing I know I’m up to my knees in corpses, and I damn near became a corpse myself.” What happens in between, taking place in a little more than a week, is laid out in Chandler-esque form, with a wholly unexpected ending. To say that Mr. Banville has “captured” the charm of that author seems inadequate.

Apparently this title was one that Chandler had listed as a possibility for a future novel, and Mr. Banville has made of it a terrific mystery. He evokes the Marlowe era perfectly, conjuring up memories with names like the Marx Brothers, Paul Whiteman, Lon Chaney, Raymond Burr, and Errol Flynn.

I highly recommend that you give yourself the deep pleasure of reading this book.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2014.

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