MURDER by Parnell Hall


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Earlier this year in Detective (p. 677), hapless, cowardly Stanley Hastings--ex-actor, would-be writer, part-time N.Y. paralegal investigator--made a funny, fresh debut as a Lawrence Block-ish accidental sleuth. This time, in an over-hasty encore appearance, Stanley is more obnoxious than engaging, leaning hard on his foul-mouthed patter to compensate for a sketchy, stringy plot. As a favor to wife Alice, Stanley agrees to help neighbor Pamela Berringer--who's been trapped into sleazy hookerdom by a Harlem pimp who has videotaped Pamela in X-rated action. Looking for that blackmail-tape, Stanley finds the pimp murdered, of course--and finds himself a suspect, unable to clear himself because he doesn't want to implicate poor Pamela. So Stanley must get evidence to nail the real killer: a nasty rival pimp. And, to mislead the cops (who are trailing him), Stanley casts suspicion on a creepy congressman who is one of the customers featured in those porno-tapes. There's sporadic amusement in Stanley's perilous run-ins with knife-wielding cons and sadistic cops; the Manhattan locales are seedily animated. But the shapeless action this time is too blatantly unreal, heavy on genre cliches, to provide finn suspense-comedy--while the potential sources for superior Stanley episodes (his paralegal work, his family ties) are left largely unexplored.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1987
Publisher: Donald Fine