3 out of 4 stars
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Trouble In Bay Town by Alan M. Blank is an easy and enjoyable read which manages, very cleverly, to be contemporary while having the nostalgic feel of a 1940’s detective novel. Sonny Knight, a private investigator, is approached by Miss Oglethorpinger because she hasn’t received either her inheritance or her payment for playing the piano in a local bar. Sonny isn’t particularly excited by this case until he discovers that a young woman goes missing every time Miss Oglethorpinger goes out and tickles the ivories. How these two occurrences are related become central to Sonny’s investigation.
What I liked most about this book was the gentle humour and the strong relationships that the characters formed with each other. It is immediately clear that the author has a sense of humour from the disclaimer at the start of the book.
The atmosphere of the 1940s is created in a variety of ways. Sonny refuses to use a computer or to own a mobile phone. Cookie, his ‘Gal Friday’, deals with that side of the work while he happily continues with his filing cabinet and landlines. Everybody in the town appears to know everybody else, and most of the men have old-fashioned nicknames like ‘Cha-Cha’, ‘Ace’ and ‘Whitey’.This book is [a] work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people or events is purely coincidental. Except the part of the guy in the police station filing a claim about his identity being stolen. That was me.
There are some nice nods to other classic detective authors. There is an Agatha Christie picture on Sonny’s calendar; he refers to his Poirotesque ‘little grey cells’, and he never goes anywhere without his Panama hat. I had to keep my concentration up because if it drifted, my mind’s eye would immediately dress him in a trench coat and fedora.
One refreshing point is that Sonny is an all-round nice guy without the failings usually attributed to detectives. He’s not divorced; he’s capable of fulfilling relationships; he's not depressed; he used to smoke, but he grew out of it, and though he keeps a bottle of Scotch in his desk, he’s not a drunk. Also, Sonny works quite amicably alongside the police detectives. A nice change from them being a mere foil to make the private detective look clever. Admittedly, there are a couple of knuckle-draggers, but they add to the entertainment. The badinage between the men is generally good-natured and feels natural.
While most of the book is quite light, there are serious moments. There is rape and murder, but thankfully we do not see these occurrences as they happen, and they are not dwelt upon.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is very well written, but I did spot some typos. Not too many, but more than I would expect to get past a professional editor. If I could, I would give this book 3.5 stars, but as I can only give whole numbers, I am rating it 3 out of 4 stars. This book will appeal to people who like a gentle, humorous, old fashioned and not too taxing detective story.
Trouble in Bay Town
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