What begins as an evening out for semiretired private investigator Enescu Fleet at the Pendleton Institute of Music ends on a sour note when the body of a music critic crashes the party in Young’s (Fleeting Glance, 2012, etc.) third comic mystery in the series.
Once again, the lovably lost John Hathaway narrates Fleet’s misadventures. He begins the story perplexed: “I couldn’t figure why an elite music college would want to toast a private eye, no matter how famous and semiretired he may be.” It’s only after John’s fiancee, Lesley; Fleet’s daughter, Ate; and their friend Hutton (another PI both less famous and less retired than Fleet) are seated that Fleet reveals that the banquet is honoring his esteemed Romanian ancestor, the composer George Enescu. The unflappable detective accepted the invitation despite one detail that the rather more flappable Hathaway fixates on: “Fleet wasn’t related to the composer Enescu. He wasn’t even Romanian.” Suitably trapped, the crew settles in to enjoy themselves anyway, until an obnoxious old schoolmate of Hathaway and Hutton drops in on them—literally. Chester Callas, having earlier in the evening pooh-poohed the credibility of Fleet’s previous cases in which the victims clung to life long enough to leave cryptic clues, can’t stop chuckling as he pulls himself from the table he landed on and grips Hathaway’s lapels long enough to whisper his own enigmatic clue as a final coda. Once more, it’s a marvelously clever setup, and in spite of being somewhat shorter than the previous books, it still packs a plot replete with murder, mistaken identity, blackmail, intrigue, missing masterpieces and a Maltese named Pixie. Young’s dry wit and love of language shine throughout poor Hathaway’s recollection of events, and the humor is finely tuned in a way that few authors can manage. But for all of that, the murder itself is relegated to the background by all the other events; when the truth is ultimately unveiled, it’s a letdown just shy of the one Chester got from the fifth-floor balcony. In his defense, even Hathaway expresses disappointment at the ending, but one off note is far from enough to keep a comedy of this caliber off the stage.
Young has done it again with his unique blend of lighthearted mystery and quick-witted characters.