Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Searching for Gatsby by Niki Danforth Provides Fascinating Literary Mystery



The beat-up sedan brakes quickly on the winding back road, its headlights beaming on a wooden sign, Willowbrook Natural Lands Trust Hiking Trails. A shrill canine yawn lets loose from the back seat as the vehicle turns into the small gravel parking area. It rolls to a stop in the corner farthest from the road. Another yawn squeaks from the back seat, and the old man reaches behind him to scratch the sleepy Jack Russell terrier nestled on a pile of sweaters. “Good girl.” His voice is gruff, but kind. He shakes his head as if getting rid of the cobwebs, blinks several times, and massages his eye lids. “Peach, wait here.” Clicking open the trunk, the wiry man steps out of the old Honda Accord. A car speeds by and he almost ducks down. “Get with it, old man,” he chides himself. “It’s just folks heading home.” He stretches his stiff limbs and rubs his gray-whiskered face while scanning the vegetation surrounding the lot.
Glancing at the road, he assesses whether the brush will block the view of his car to the few vehicles passing by. He slams shut the driver’s door as if deciding that it does. Another car drives by, and this time he ignores it. A slight breeze blows through and the man shivers, reminded that fall is on its way. He peers inside at the disorderly back seat. Several cardboard boxes and paper bags of books surround the sweaters that serve as Peach’s bed. The man reaches for an olive-colored jacket and a felt fedora tossed among the clutter. As he puts them on, the dog’s big dark eyes stare at him adoringly. Then he pushes open the lid of the car’s trunk, removes a small black canvas pack, and drops it on the ground. He searches the bag and pulls out lightweight black gloves and a small beat-up paperback missing its cover. He slips it into the back of his black jeans, the skinny volume peeking out above the top edge of the pocket. 
The man clips a leash to the collar of his terrier. “Okay, girl. You’re my cover.” Peach jumps out of the car, and the old guy bumps the door shut with his hip as he puts the gloves into his jacket pocket. Tossing the light pack over his shoulder, he’s good to go. The little man and the little dog leave the parking area and stroll down the road masquerading as any other neighbor out for an evening walk. 
~~~

Many have heard of either the book or the movie, The Great Gatsby, but Niki Danforth has added an interesting little known fact that creates an intensely unique and long-standing mystery that has yet to be solved as the book begins... Specifically, that a cheap version was published as an Armed Services edition... and it was to the success of that book being sent to those in the service that the book began to win its acclaim... Plus used to create that mystery we'll be reading...

This was my first book for Danforth and I was impressed. Her work is tight, flowing easily and presents the reader with a sit-back-and-relax enjoyment that will be pleasantly inviting for true mystery fans..

On a personal note, I was attracted immediately to the main character, who is in her fifties, having faced an empty home with her children gone and a divorce, she decides to become a private investigator, earns a black belt in Akido, and has her younger PI mentor falling for her... 

It's great to see an older role model for women and Ronnie Lake is a delight as we get to know and admire her. As soon as I finished this book, I went out to pick up Book 1, Stunner!

There's one more central character, Warrior, who needs to be introduced early. He was a war dog who served with Ronnie's son and when he was killed, Ronnie made sure that Warrior was going to have a good home now...and you can be sure that Warrior also helps to protect his new mistress... In this book, he hosts a temporary friend in need of a home after his master was murdered... Peaches and Warrior both add greatly to the enjoyment as well as the basic story line...

While this is a complex story with various subplots that add significantly, the first villain, who is quickly killed, is a lovable older man who was a rare book expert working in a bookstore...he had acted as a thief to get into a home where Ronnie was attending a party... while he picked up an expensive necklace, probably more for cover, his search was in the owner's library. He quickly came across a First Edition of The Great Gatsby, which was very valuable. He sighed, thinking he'd loved to own it, but slid it back into its place, pulling out his part of the Service Edition of the same book and then placing it back into his pocket... He went on searching... He was murdered as he left...

At the same party, the owner's wife was talking to Ronnie about taking a job for her--she needed to know whether he was having an affair...

And that woman was also at the party where she and the owner had public words and the woman left early... Whether the woman was having an affair with the owner, we do know that she is the boss of Casey, the rare book expert who was also a thief...

We have entered into the profit-making side of rare books, the business...and the danger that goes along with the desire by many who are rich to own valuable, known books. But we also find that there are many book lovers who go to far lengths just to get to touch and read the more valuable copy of a book they've read many times...

The result is intriguing as Win her PI mentor and Ronnie are hired, with Ronnie being the lead investigator, to find the now missing First Edition of The Great Gatsby... Yes, the copy that Casey had pulled out and also replaced, was also later stolen!

This mystery is more following the clues than presenting the reader with the need to solve the mystery. That in no way detracts from the pleasure book lovers will have in entering into the perhaps new side, at least for me, of the rare book world... If you love books talking about books--if you aren't you won't know what I mean--well, I think you will love this one just as much as I did! Highly recommended...


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Niki Danforth, daughter of a Cold War covert intelligence officer, has the "thriller/adventure" gene in her DNA. After a career as a successful TV/video producer and director in New York, this empty-nester is picking up her first love of suspenseful mystery books and recreating herself as an author in the genre. Danforth lives in the New Jersey countryside with her husband and two drama-queen dogs. She is hard at work writing her next book. 

You can also follow Danforth on Facebook at "Niki Danforth Author" where she loves to review her favorite books, movies and TV shows.