Enigmatic Romanian master detective Enescu Fleet returns for another tangled tale.
Young (Fleeting Memory, 2011) brings back suave sleuth Enescu Fleet in this complex, hypercaffeinated crime caper that opens with the narrator, hapless John Hathaway, who’s “not much of a detective,” on the brink of marrying Lesley Darlington. John’s friend and fellow detective Hutton has set up Lesley and her British parents in a lakeside cabin belonging to John “Johnny Fishcakes” Frederick Herrington, the mob kingpin “most famous for his ongoing blood feud with the Vroom family of Boston.” Lesley worries they may all be caught in the crossfire, although Hathaway is fairly certain she simply likes saying “Vroom.” Trouble instead strikes Hutton, who’s roughed up by goons. Shortly afterward, he’s led into the lakeside cabin by none other than famous retired detective Fleet and his faithful Maltese, Pixie. From there, the book’s manic plot takes off, centering on the Fishcakes/Vroom blood feud as it skillfully and delightfully lampoons conventional murder mysteries by filtering them through the quip-heavy sensibilities of a Wodehouse novel. “It’s amazing how often I end up in seats next to the most priceless asses,” Hathaway laments. When Fleet assembles a room full of such specimens at the book’s climax, one character dryly asks, “Next you’re going to say [the culprits are] in this very room,” to which the unflappable Fleet replies, “I am and they are.” The plot moves from one perfectly deployed absurdity to another, with Everyman Hathaway at the center of things, always with the slightly annoying but nearly infallible Fleet on hand to shed some light and generally be inscrutable. When Fleet hints that one particular pawn on the plot’s chessboard is “a knight in pawn’s clothing,” a hapless guest asks, “The knight’s the one that makes a move like an L?”—at which point Fleet suggests they “lay off the chess metaphors for now.”
A smart, laugh-out-loud murder-mystery romp.