And Sometimes I Wonder About You
A Leonid McGill Mystery #5
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, April 2016
Leonid Trotter McGill’s New York City office now officially answers its phone “McGill and Son detective agency,” a recent development. One of his sons, Twilliam (usually just “Twill”), is a new addition. His relationships with just about all his nearest and dearest being fraught with complexities: He hasn’t seen his father, Clarence, the charismatic revolutionary who calls himself “Tolstoy” McGill, in years; his wife has recently attempted suicide. His “blood son” and daughter are Dmitri and Tatyana; Twill and Shelly are the two sired by other men but who Leonid raised exactly the same as his own offspring. And then there is Gordo, his mentor, boxing trainer, and the man who he considers “his true father.”
Those relationships, and the assorted women who cross his path, either professionally or otherwise, (with several of whom he falls in love or lust, or both) are a major part of this novel, the balance of which are the several cases that come to him. These multiple plot lines arise in different parts of the book, which is as complex as these may make it sound. But with this master storyteller, that is not a deficit. The first of these is introduced in the first pages of the book, and she is a gorgeous woman named Marella Herzog, who fits both definitions: Client and lover. Their first meeting, when he is aware of a scent she is wearing, causes “a strong reaction in a section of my heart that had almost been forgotten.” He describes his secretary as having “gray-blue eyes [which] carried all the sadness of the last days of autumn and her voice was so soft that it could have been a memory.” Another sometime lover is the “color of pure gold that hadn’t been polished for some years,” with hair that was “naturally wavy and darkly blond.”
He thinks “sadness had as many striations as a rainbow – – only in grays.” The writing is replete with lines like these: When McGill visits his wife in the hospital, he thinks “I wanted to say something kind, to slap her and tell her to snap out of it. I would have torn out my hair if I wasn’t already bald.” McGill, 55, is self-described as an “old, off-the-rack straphanger;” and “it has always amazed me how a woman’s eyes and her words can find a direct line to my animal heart;” when he speaks to a waitress, she smiles at him, and he muses “as had been its purpose since humans became a species, the smile socialized me.” I briefly had a difficult time recognizing the quote that provides the title of the book, but the author kindly reminded me: “Sometimes I think that everybody in the world in crazy, except for me and you – – and sometimes I wonder about you.” The writing throughout is wonderful, but then we expect nothing less from this author, who carries the reader along swiftly on the ride through his newest, 49th novel, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.
A Tito Ihaka Novel #5
Bitter Lemon Press, April 2015
This sequel to Death on Demand brings the reader back to New Zealand and the Central Police Dept. There are a number of cops who alternate in prominence in the plot, among them District Commander Finbar McGrail, who, we are told, became Auckland District Commander and developed an appreciation for wine pretty much at the same time. McGrail is still haunted by a 27-year-old case, his first, when as a new D.I. he investigated the murder of a 17-year-old girl, Polly Stenson. The investigation comes to a halt less than a year later when the police still have no viable suspects in her killing, coming to the conclusion that she was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Only a year from retirement, he is approached one day by a man who was present at the murder scene at the time in question, and given a lead as to who might have killed Polly.
We then meet former D.I. Johan Van Roon, and the man who had at one time been his mentor: Maori cop Tito Ihaka, described as “unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane” and “the brown Sherlock Holmes,” the latter having been banished to the hinterlands several years ago after a case which he had stubbornly insisted was a murder, not, as everyone else was convinced, a ‘simple’ hit-and-run accident. Now a Detective Sergeant, he is asked by McGrail to follow up on the new lead. Van Roon has left the force in disgrace, now a pariah in the police force and working, when he can find employment, as a private investigator and security consultant. He is hired to find a man who disappeared right after the Stenson murder, for a very attractive fee. Events occur in such a way that both Ihaka and Van Roon reopen the cold case to try to find the murderer.
At the same time, Ihaka starts a completely different investigation, one that involves the death of his father, “a union firebrand and renegade Marxist,” decades ago, thought to have been of natural causes. To make things even more complex, a man with whom his father was involved died in a supposed accident one week later. Coincidence? He thinks not.
The author was born in the UK but has lived for most of his life in New Zealand, which is the setting for his novels. The biggest hurdle for me in this book was with the local vernacular/regional jargon/idiom, as well as the many political discussions, making it somewhat slow reading. But the complex plot was very interesting, and on the whole the book was enjoyable.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2016.