An aspiring lawyer scrapes together a living as a Renaissance man and amateur sleuth in Rieger’s witty debut.
Roderick Misely has dreams of joining the legal profession, but his father’s tarnished name has prevented any of the lawyers in the 1950s town of Elk Neck from taking him on as an apprentice. So Misely does whatever he can to skirt as close to the legal profession as possible as an all-purpose consultant. Chasing down lost dogs for the reward and taking on menial typing jobs with the municipal government are only a few of the tasks that keep a can of stew on his hot plate or enough change in his pocket for a meal at the local Greek restaurant. His specialty, however, is solving seemingly unsolvable mysteries, from the theft of expensive jewels at the local museum to the blackmail of a town official. Sometimes, Roderick acts at the request of a desperate client, but other times he hangs his hopes on meddling without invitation of a possible payday. Each chapter is a glimpse into one of those cases and the variety of creative but legally fuzzy methods that Roderick employs to crack them. These bite-sized whodunits toe the line between the zany and dangerous without reading over-the-top—a savvy mixture from which even more seasoned writers could learn a thing or two. All the while, Rieger’s writing is effortlessly funny, with deadpan humor coloring even the most mundane moments: “The two shook hands. Misely could have sworn he was handling a live, wet eel. Instinctively, he looked around for a towel, but of course, there was no towel.” Roderick himself is fairly humorless but is nonetheless a refreshing take on the 1950s gumshoe. He’s a smooth talker and skillful investigator, with none of the cool glamor or idealized independence of some other fictional private eyes. Eschewing friends, he’s certainly out for himself, but his freedom comes with a healthy dose of reality. Life hasn’t turned out the way he expected; he struggles to make ends meet and sleeps on a cot in his cluttered “eyesore” of a suite. Clever and comical, this page-turner will have readers furrowing their brows one minute and laughing out loud the next.
An intricate, lively detective novel with a wink.