The investigation of a former Beatnik’s murder becomes a bittersweet trip down memory lane.
Newspaper librarian Maddy Sprowls is saddened by the death of her old friend Gordon Sweet, an archaeology professor, and disturbed to see that Sweet Gordon, as she called him, was murdered. In the 1950s, Maddy and Gordon and a handful of others rubbed elbows with Kerouac and Ginsberg and called themselves the Meriwether Square Baked Bean Existentialist Society. For the second time (Morgue Mama, 2003), curious Maddy can’t resist turning amateur sleuth, though strictly on the QT, since Bob Averill, editor-in-chief of The Hannawa Herald-Union, is looking for any excuse to give Maddy, a maverick with a lot of seniority, the boot. A handful of likely suspects emerge, each pulling the probe in a different direction. Sweet, whose corpse was discovered at a local landfill, may have been gathering evidence against notorious polluter Kenneth Kingzette. Sweet’s skeevy nephew Mickey Gitlin is a penny-ante drug dealer desperate for money, and his graduate assistant, Andrew Holloway, is notoriously unstable. But Maddy keeps being drawn back to the unsolved murder of Sweet’s close friend David Delarosa 50 years before. Her suspicions uncover several dark secrets better left alone and thorny questions about Sweet’s sexuality.
Sublimely snappy prose keeps this otherwise ordinary mystery afloat. Maddy, full of life at 68, is a terrific narrator.