An absorbing, wry mystery with a charming, rather indifferent sleuth.

DEAD CLOWN BLUES

A CARNEGIE FITCH MYSTERY FIASCO

In this 1950s-set novella, an unlicensed Vancouver private eye works a case that entangles him with a traveling circus and thuggish clowns.

Carnegie Fitch has a paying gig lined up involving a potential insurance scam. But another case takes precedence when local circus owner Adora Carmichael hires the private investigator. She wants to know what happened to Jim, a janitor who recently died after drunkenly driving through a circus tent and into a lake. Jim was like an uncle to Adora years ago when he was a clown at her father’s circus. Fitch already has a vested interest in this, as Jim, who worked in the same building as the gumshoe’s office, and the detective traded whiskey shots the night of the man’s death. A few inquiries ultimately lead to the rumor that Adora’s father was a bootlegger and used clowns as his muscle. Known as the Dead Clowns, these mean-looking circus performers are less than cooperative with Fitch. Evidently, Jim stashed some money before a lengthy prison stint, and the Dead Clowns feel entitled to the loot. They’re also convinced that Fitch knows where the cash is, making them especially dangerous, as they’re willing to do whatever it takes to extract information that the lowly PI doesn’t have. Lester’s (40 Nickels, 2019, etc.) sharply written series opener is riveting and persistently witty. It triumphs as a mystery, with Jim’s possible murder and the money that the menacing clowns want. There are also detective story conventions, as Fitch treks seedy streets while donning a fedora. But understated humor layers the narrative as well. For example, Fitch’s apparent lack of effort as a private eye prompts droll visuals, including his office door still carrying the name of the accountant who previously worked there. Like any good gumshoe, Fitch is quick with one-liners, which come easy thanks to the irony-laden, antagonistic clowns plot. A highlight is Fitch’s repeated attempts to relay a joke involving a “plastic sheep,” which no one seems to want to hear.

An absorbing, wry mystery with a charming, rather indifferent sleuth.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946502-02-5

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Shotgun Honey

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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