An enjoyably off-kilter whodunit with an ethically compromised amateur detective.


In Meisler’s debut mystery, a California real estate agent investigates a poisoning after police eye him as a potential murderer.

Rick Davies’ latest real estate venture is a run-down home located in desirable Mill Valley, which he figures he can sell for nearly $1 million. Octavia Papadopoulos’ late sister, Sylvia, used to live there, and Octavia asks him to look through the attic to verify that it contains nothing valuable. He finds a few notable things that he keeps for himself, including several thousand dollars in cash and a vial of unidentified white powder. Not long afterward, police detectives ask Rick about a dead woman he doesn’t know, but who had his business card. The same detectives later arrest him on unspecified charges at the Mill Valley open house, but oddly, they don’t interrogate him. Following his release on bail, Rick learns that his newly deceased contractor, Barney, may have been poisoned with tainted cocaine—likely from the aforementioned vial, which Rick gave him. To ensure that cops don’t pin a murder on him, Rick searches for a killer, and Kirsten, a real estate agent he recently met, helps him, primarily out of boredom. They begin by talking to Octavia, then stumble upon a suspect or two, as well as other possible murders. Meisler’s unconventional mystery is brisk and generally funny. It’s set in 2008, and there are numerous jokes about then-current technology; in one scene, for instance, Rick watches Kirsten use a finger rather than a stylus on her new iPhone, which he says is “like looking into the future.” As a protagonist, Rick has some unsavory qualities; he drinks excessively, uses his dead father’s prescription morphine, and concentrates too much on Kirsten’s physical traits. Nevertheless, his first-person narration has a certain level of charm; at one point, for example, when he’s wary of someone’s motives, he recalls “that Stephen King movie with Kathy Bates.” The mystery itself isn’t fully satisfying, as Rick generates theories based mostly on speculation, leading to a somewhat convoluted final act. However, the darkly humorous ending does answer some lingering questions.

An enjoyably off-kilter whodunit with an ethically compromised amateur detective.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9961570-9-4

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Sensitive Skin Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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