Fleet and friends take to the sea to solve a maritime murder in Young’s (Fleeting Note, 2013, etc.) fourth entry in his one-of-a-kind comic mystery series.
When an admiral friend invites semiretired PI Enescu Fleet and sidekick John Hathaway to Astorbay, Canada, for an all-night game of poker aboard The Stacked Deck, they’re happy to accept. “After all,” quips Fleet, “What sort of Fleet would refuse the request of an admiral?” Hathaway is particularly pleased not to be “stumbling over grisly corpses or up to [his] elbows in potential killers” after a year full of bizarre murder cases. Maybe, for once, his fiancee, Lesley, Fleet’s daughter, Ate, and Fleet’s faithful Maltese, Pixie, will all get to enjoy a vacation. But a relaxing night just isn’t in the cards for our hapless narrator; no sooner has Hathaway flopped a full house than a man falls overboard and another is found stabbed. Out of the 10 card players there that night, it seems that one of them had a different sort of game in mind. Though much of the resulting case takes place on the island, the story is something of a nautical Ten Little Indians, with the players’ pasts bringing them to the table in similar fashion to the famous Christie novel. Just as in the other books in his series, Young plots this story brilliantly and tells it through the same affably lost Hathaway. Characteristic of his writing, Young’s book revels in wordplay and self-referential humor as the author shuffles through more playing-card puns than this review can deal. That’s not to say it’s all fun; from Ate’s childhood in the shadow of her famous father to the darker moments of the detective’s own past, the story takes readers deeper into Young’s characters than ever before. Though the humor occasionally borders on being too subtle for its own good, the gambit proves worth the risk by keeping the series fresh. As always, attentive readers will be well-rewarded.
A series that seemingly couldn’t get any better goes a little deeper; with Young at the helm, readers can’t lose.