"A series that seemingly couldn’t get any better goes a little deeper; with Young at the helm, readers can’t lose."– Kirkus Reviews
Fleet and friends take to the sea to solve a maritime murder in Young’s (Fleeting Note, 2013, etc.) fourth entry in his one-of-a-kind comic mystery series.
When an admiral friend invites semiretired PI Enescu Fleet and sidekick John Hathaway to Astorbay, Canada, for an all-night game of poker aboard The Stacked Deck, they’re happy to accept. “After all,” quips Fleet, “What sort of Fleet would refuse the request of an admiral?” Hathaway is particularly pleased not to be “stumbling over grisly corpses or up to [his] elbows in potential killers” after a year full of bizarre murder cases. Maybe, for once, his fiancee, Lesley, Fleet’s daughter, Ate, and Fleet’s faithful Maltese, Pixie, will all get to enjoy a vacation. But a relaxing night just isn’t in the cards for our hapless narrator; no sooner has Hathaway flopped a full house than a man falls overboard and another is found stabbed. Out of the 10 card players there that night, it seems that one of them had a different sort of game in mind. Though much of the resulting case takes place on the island, the story is something of a nautical Ten Little Indians, with the players’ pasts bringing them to the table in similar fashion to the famous Christie novel. Just as in the other books in his series, Young plots this story brilliantly and tells it through the same affably lost Hathaway. Characteristic of his writing, Young’s book revels in wordplay and self-referential humor as the author shuffles through more playing-card puns than this review can deal. That’s not to say it’s all fun; from Ate’s childhood in the shadow of her famous father to the darker moments of the detective’s own past, the story takes readers deeper into Young’s characters than ever before. Though the humor occasionally borders on being too subtle for its own good, the gambit proves worth the risk by keeping the series fresh. As always, attentive readers will be well-rewarded.
A series that seemingly couldn’t get any better goes a little deeper; with Young at the helm, readers can’t lose.
What begins as an evening out for semiretired private investigator Enescu Fleet at the Pendleton Institute of Music ends on a sour note when the body of a music critic crashes the party in Young’s (Fleeting Glance, 2012, etc.) third comic mystery in the series.
Once again, the lovably lost John Hathaway narrates Fleet’s misadventures. He begins the story perplexed: “I couldn’t figure why an elite music college would want to toast a private eye, no matter how famous and semiretired he may be.” It’s only after John’s fiancee, Lesley; Fleet’s daughter, Ate; and their friend Hutton (another PI both less famous and less retired than Fleet) are seated that Fleet reveals that the banquet is honoring his esteemed Romanian ancestor, the composer George Enescu. The unflappable detective accepted the invitation despite one detail that the rather more flappable Hathaway fixates on: “Fleet wasn’t related to the composer Enescu. He wasn’t even Romanian.” Suitably trapped, the crew settles in to enjoy themselves anyway, until an obnoxious old schoolmate of Hathaway and Hutton drops in on them—literally. Chester Callas, having earlier in the evening pooh-poohed the credibility of Fleet’s previous cases in which the victims clung to life long enough to leave cryptic clues, can’t stop chuckling as he pulls himself from the table he landed on and grips Hathaway’s lapels long enough to whisper his own enigmatic clue as a final coda. Once more, it’s a marvelously clever setup, and in spite of being somewhat shorter than the previous books, it still packs a plot replete with murder, mistaken identity, blackmail, intrigue, missing masterpieces and a Maltese named Pixie. Young’s dry wit and love of language shine throughout poor Hathaway’s recollection of events, and the humor is finely tuned in a way that few authors can manage. But for all of that, the murder itself is relegated to the background by all the other events; when the truth is ultimately unveiled, it’s a letdown just shy of the one Chester got from the fifth-floor balcony. In his defense, even Hathaway expresses disappointment at the ending, but one off note is far from enough to keep a comedy of this caliber off the stage.
Young has done it again with his unique blend of lighthearted mystery and quick-witted characters.
Enigmatic Romanian master detective Enescu Fleet returns for another tangled tale.
Young (Fleeting Memory, 2011) brings back suave sleuth Enescu Fleet in this complex, hypercaffeinated crime caper that opens with the narrator, hapless John Hathaway, who’s “not much of a detective,” on the brink of marrying Lesley Darlington. John’s friend and fellow detective Hutton has set up Lesley and her British parents in a lakeside cabin belonging to John “Johnny Fishcakes” Frederick Herrington, the mob kingpin “most famous for his ongoing blood feud with the Vroom family of Boston.” Lesley worries they may all be caught in the crossfire, although Hathaway is fairly certain she simply likes saying “Vroom.” Trouble instead strikes Hutton, who’s roughed up by goons. Shortly afterward, he’s led into the lakeside cabin by none other than famous retired detective Fleet and his faithful Maltese, Pixie. From there, the book’s manic plot takes off, centering on the Fishcakes/Vroom blood feud as it skillfully and delightfully lampoons conventional murder mysteries by filtering them through the quip-heavy sensibilities of a Wodehouse novel. “It’s amazing how often I end up in seats next to the most priceless asses,” Hathaway laments. When Fleet assembles a room full of such specimens at the book’s climax, one character dryly asks, “Next you’re going to say [the culprits are] in this very room,” to which the unflappable Fleet replies, “I am and they are.” The plot moves from one perfectly deployed absurdity to another, with Everyman Hathaway at the center of things, always with the slightly annoying but nearly infallible Fleet on hand to shed some light and generally be inscrutable. When Fleet hints that one particular pawn on the plot’s chessboard is “a knight in pawn’s clothing,” a hapless guest asks, “The knight’s the one that makes a move like an L?”—at which point Fleet suggests they “lay off the chess metaphors for now.”
A smart, laugh-out-loud murder-mystery romp.
A man with no memory stumbles into his own shaggy dog story.
The narrator of Young’s (Double Cover, 2011, etc.) intricately plotted, frequently hilarious new novel wakes up in a rural cabin with no memory of how he got there or who he is. He shares the cabin with a feisty little dog and a well-dressed man lying dead on the floor with an arrow through his heart—only he’s not really dead; he’s got enough life left in him to whisper to the main character that “the answer lies with Keats.” When our narrator asks “Keats who?” the man heaves one last word, “Cretin,” before dying, leaving our hero to reflect, “He was really dead this time. Really dead and kind of rude.” Before the amnesiac main character can figure out what to do with the body, he gets another visitor—the mystery man Enescu Fleet, an accomplished amateur sleuth and reputed inventor of the phrase “cool beans.” After a little verbal sparring, the main character decides to reveal the dead body to Fleet and seek his counsel—but by that point the dead body is long gone, leaving not even a blood stain. The novel that unfolds from such a feverish, smile-inducing setup repays the promise of its opening many times over. The setting is revealed not only as an Indian casino in Maine but also as the venue of Deadly Allusions, a televised game show in which realistic murders are staged in order to give amateur sleuths a chance to test their deductive abilities. The story’s odd heroes are quickly enmeshed in just such a simulated murder, which quickly complicates with corrupt politicians, shady deals and, of course, actual murder. Young’s narrative dexterity never flags, although occasionally his cleverness gets the better of him (there are many points in the book where the only thing the main character seems to have forgotten is his name—a very convenient kind of amnesia). This novel has more barbs than a Dorothy Parker short story and is every bit as enjoyable.
An utterly winning, deceptively smart collection of mishaps, plot twists and grinning one-liners.