Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Monday, February 8, 2010

Beating the Babushka by Tim Maleeny

Location: San Francisco, CA USA This is one of my North American selections for Dorte's 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

Private Detective Cape Weathers is hired by movie producer Grace Gold to investigate the death of another producer and former lover, Tom Abrahams. The police think his fall from the Golden Gate Bridge is a suicide. No way, says Grace. Cape takes the case and is soon dealing with the Russian mafia (hinted at in the title?), high grade heroin, a mob war between the Italians and the Chinese, the intricacies of producing a movie, and the eccentric owners of the movie studio. And people are trying to kill him.

This is the second Cape Weathers novel though it is set just before the the first, Stealing the Dragon. Cape was a newspaper reporter with a skill for finding people before he decided that he would rather directly affect events rather than passively report them. He falls into the wisecracking category of detective and there is some excellent black humor; early in the story he is at a murder scene in a butcher shop discussing what sausage would make the best blunt instrument with one of the detectives.

The Asian woman on the cover represents Sally, half American/half Japanese, and Cape's friend. She is a martial arts expert who was raised as an assassin by the Triads in China and one of the few people to quit that life. She is Cape's deadly backup when he needs it.

I've visited San Francisco several times and enjoy the way Maleeny works the city into the story, particularly North Beach and China Town. Given that the story involves a movie production, you might expect to see the city figure as a character and Maleeny doesn't disappoint but you'll need to read the book to see how.

In the FriendFeed Crime and Mystery Fiction room we recently discussed the "if you like X then you'll enjoy Y" type of recommendations, something I don't normally do. I'm going to give it a shot here and say that if you enjoy Robert Crais' Elvis Cole & Joe Pike stories then you should give Maleeny a try. On Maleeny's web site there is a blurb from Bookgasm comparing Cape Weathers to Travis McGee. That's a wee bit of a stretch to me but there are a few similarities: he gets personally involved in cases; has a code that doesn't let him give up; has a habit of taking on cases that involve attractive women. I'm reading a Travis McGee story now so I will be alert for similarities.

I've enjoyed the plotting, characters, writing, and humor of the two Cape Weathers novels and Tim Maleeny is on my "I'll read anything he writes" list

The third Cape Weathers novel is GREASING THE PIÑATA which won the 2009 Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery.