Friday, December 20, 2013

I Missed the McGunnin...and Couldn't Find it Anywhere...

Death by Misadventure

By E. E. Smith

The beautiful cover for this book encouraged me to pick it up--to start reading. Its setting in the 40s was something that I looked forward to settling into--it was even before Mickey Spillane brought us Mike Hammer where his secretary, Velda, was seen as the important woman behind the P.I. Of course, Agatha Christie had brought forth Miss Marple much earlier, but I was happy to realize that women were breaking tradition then as well as now...

Still, it was brave for Alexis Smith to be considering learning to be a P.I. right out of high school. She had gone to school for Forensics Investigation, almost got kicked out when she was spotted in the back of class--she had got a "Bob" short cut, but hadn't thought to start wearing trousers...

When the instructor talked to her and reviewed the exam paper she had just completed, he decided to give her a chance. She now had her own agency--or at least an office, a secretary and a young male assistant. 

Or... was she already on her way to failure...

I sat down behind my desk. "I'm sorry...Mrs. Faraday.
Yes, I see that now. It's here on your card...So, tell me.
What can I do for you?"
"I want you to find my husband," she said, opening
a silver cigarette case.
I passed an ashtray over to her and took a yellow pad
out of the top drawer of my desk. Unscrewing the cap
from my fountain pen, I said, "Name?"
"Frank Faraday," she said, and when I looked up in
utter astonishment, her cold sardonic smile sent a
chill through me. You don't recognize me, do you?"
Readers, you either have to accept that this is not a mystery--that the inexperienced P.I., had no idea what she was doing, or that she was a fool, albeit, a dedicated one...

Now, on the other hand, maybe if you call it something else, like a ghost story, historical literary fiction...I don't know, just anything but a mystery... then you have a decent story, with good characters, and a perfect ending, for even a thriller!

The problem is that it is a very well written story, worthy of the author's past credentials. But there are so many issues of content that, if you're like me, you'll spend the majority of the time searching--where is that "something" that even the author talks about in the book, although I'd never heard of it before...

Where is the McGuffin? I'm not even going to touch that!

The setting is the first item--it's unrealistic. If you're just starting a business, you're not going to be able to hire staff, especially if the story itself indicates that bills are not being paid...  At the same time, the overall environmental era flows well, including getting into the political and war issues of the time. Soooo, out of the blue, in walks the dame, which is what Mike Hammer would have called her...

Actually, it turns out to be a one-time girl friend of Alexis. As I thought about the story, I realized that the potential new client would have kept track of Alexis, perhaps, so that she would know that she had now opened a business... But Alexis didn't recognize her...

Kate got up and pirouetted around
her chair to model for me. Until then
I hadn't paid much attention to what
she was wearing. Now I saw that her
Jacket, in a soft white wood, had natural
and a nipped-in waist. The wide, calf-
length skirt was navy blue, with
unpressed pleats. Everything, down to
her Penaljo shoes, looked expensive.
"You want to be well dressed. You'll
be talking to officials in London. Yes,
I suggest you start there. Scotland Yard,
or maybe even Interpol!"

And when she offers her a large check, more than really necessary, which is only referred to as Alexis' need for new clothes... Well Alexis goes right out, spends lots of money she doesn't even keep track of, and flies away, first-class... Need I go on...

Ok, here was the assignment.  Find the woman's husband. Kill him... Alexis bargains--I'll find him, but won't kill him... Really?

The only thing realistic is how London Yard treated this American girl... And fortunately for Alexis, one of the blokes fell head over hills in love with her...

And the ending was beautifully crafted... Almost so good that you want, really want, to overlook the fact that the plot and main character fail miserably...  

Alexis' father really hadn't pushed the trust concept into his daughter's mind enough...

Were women really as foolish as this back when they weren't allowed to think for themselves? Top grades hadn't helped her.
Only Scotland Yard officials knew that an American girl with a licensed gun, in a country where not even the police carried, just had to bring trouble!

My final disappointment was that I couldn't find any historical reference to the ghost in Norwich... So does that mean that Agnes  DeVere really didn't...

You know, it's always fun to find a series that you "think" you would really enjoy. Perhaps. E. E. Smith will take some time to read other mysteries of the era. Agatha Christie still holds in for many of us even after all this time. The complexity, the sleuthing, the suspense, and the thrill of hunting down a mystery could happen within this story and characters. But Ms. Alexis J. Smith of Discreet Investigations will have to take some lessons from older, experienced Miss Marble. There was no way that a P.I. could spend weeks on one case, lazing around in the Old Vicarage, keeping company with the Scotland Yard officer who was fascinated with her... only to find that the husband has indeed been living right there all along, under her nose--with her too hesitant to...face the man she searched for... LOL... A shame really, it's kinda a "nice" book to read if you don't need a plot... A little romance, a little history, a little walk down memory lane...


Evelyn Eileen Smith resides in the San Francisco Bay area and is an award-winning playwright of more than a dozen plays. The debut novel, Boardinghouse Stew, was inspired by her own real-life experiences working in a boardhouse in Satramento during World War II. Times Like These is based on more real-life adventures through the end of WW II, six years of peace, and the beginning of the Korean War. In her last work, In Love and War, Evelyn shares her experiences as a young bride during the Korean War and how life decisions made in haste impacted her entire life.

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