Benny Cooperman, the low-key Grantham, Ontario, private eye who has as little success shushing his Jewish mother as getting Kogan, the janitor of his building, to fix the leaky hall toilet, agrees to a trade: If Kogan will deal with the plumbing, Benny will plumb the death of his pal Lizzy Oldridge, who died of starvation because her safe-deposit box cosigner, Thurleigh Ramsden, wouldn't release funds to her. Nosing around the inquest, Benny draws the attention of posh lawyer Julian Newby, who, surprisingly, invites him to lunch and asks him to tail ravishing TV news anchor Catherine Bracken for unspecified reasons. The tailing, however, doesn't take up too much time, and Benny's soon chatting up Ramsden, discovering in the hours before the banker's death that Ramsden's Guild of the Admirable Bede is a scheme to funnel oldsters' funds into his pocket, then learning that scary Steve Morella has real-estate plans that hinge on grabbing Lizzy's house, which she'd willed to the Bede Guild. More menace is supplied by a series of blackmailers who've been harassing the tony Ravenswood family for years; CXAN station manager Orv Wishart is only the latest to ante up. A few key words from his mom ("I'd rather eat an unkosher chicken . . . than talk to that man," she says of one suspect), and Benny has solved a case whose body count rivals those of the hard-boiled detective novels Catherine's boyfriend turns out.
Benny's a charmer, and Engel again skewers Americanisms while serving up a deliciously nonsensical murder-on-wry.