Thursday, June 30, 2016

McNally's Dilemma - Lawrence Sanders

   1999; 309 pages.  Book #8 (out of 13) of the Archy McNally series.  New Author? : No, and Yes.  Genre : Crime-Humor.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    There really isn’t anything for Archy McNally to investigate.  Geoffrey Williams, a local tennis pro – and known womanizer – has been shot to death, his naked body (corpse, I guess) sprawled across the floor in his house.

    There isn't any question as to who killed him.  His wife, Melva, freely admits she did the dirty deed, after discovering Geoffrey and a mystery woman in flagrante delicto on the floor.  So no investigation is needed, and Melva simply asks that Archy, as a friend, look after their daughter, the ravishing and partying Veronica.

    But a couple nagging questions keep floating around in Archy’s head.  Who was the mystery woman and why hasn't she come forward?  Why was the house security turned off that one particular night?  Why did Melva have the address of where to find the vivacious Veronica conveniently written on a piece of paper for Archy?  And what was it that the maid said about the goings on that night?

What’s To Like...
    There are actually two tasks for Archy to perform here – two plotlines if you will.  One is to poke around in the Geoffrey Williams slaying, keeping in mind that the accused in a client of McNally and Son.  The other is  to find out who is blackmailing John Fairhurst III, and why, since the “dirt”, while embarrassing, is not particularly troublesome.  The reader of course knows that the two storylines will eventually converge, but it’s fun to watch (read) how it’s done.

     This is my second Archy McNally book (the other one is reviewed here), and I am indeed warming up to our protagonist.  Here Archy is a bit more of a wit and a bit less of a fop.  He may still bed the girl, but who’s toying with whom?  And our hero now gets, to a certain degree, his comeuppance for his vanity.  I liked that.

    As always, the story is set in Palm Beach, Florida.  As always, wit and plot twists abound.  I love it when Archy lapses into French.  There are acronyms to learn; it took me a while to realize that “PBR” = “Palm Beach Rumor”, and “PBF” = “Palm Beach Fact”.  Once again, detailed descriptions are given for what everybody is wearing and eating from one day to the next.  And you’ll be amused to discover what “Steak Tartare Medium Rare” works out to be.

    The ending is quite twisty and quite good.  You and Archy both know some sort of subterfuge is afoot, but determining what’s really going on will surprise you.

Kewlest New Word. . .
And Bob’s Your Uncle (phrase.) : “and everything’s all right!”; “et voila!”; “;”and there you go!”  (a Britishism)

    “Do you know who this place belongs to, Archy?”
    “No. Do you?”
    “An old couple who went into hock to get their daughter married to an English title.  Now they have to rent the place every winter and go live with their daughter and son-in-law in his family castle.  No central heat, sixty bedrooms, one loo, and if you want to take a bath you have to order the hot water a week in advance.”
    “You’re kidding.”
    “Would I lie to you, Archy?”
    “Yes.”  (pg. 99)

    Al Rogoff was living proof of the old adage “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  The only time Al Rogoff watched television was when PBS aired a performance by the New York City Ballet or an opera from the Met.  Al could listen to the William Tell overture without once thinking, “Hi, ho, Silver, away,” and could tell an ’82 Medoc from Chianti sold by the gallon.  He enjoyed Vivaldi and knew that “La Belle Dame sans Merci” was not a French dominatrix.  (pg. 155)

 “As you sue, so shall you reap.”  (pg. 217)
    Archy’s Dilemma was published in 1999, but sadly Lawrence Sanders passed away in February, 1998.  His estate chose Vincent Lardo to write this book, the 8th in the series.  Unfortunately, this switching of authors isn’t mentioned on either the front or back cover blurbs.  The only place it is cited is in the small print on the “Library of Congress” info page.

     This apparently upset no small number of Lawrence Sanders fans, who felt that Mr. Lardo did not fully capture the full inner essence of our hero.  Well, I agree with them to a certain extent, Lardo’s Archy is subtly different from Sanders’ Archy.

    But personally I prefer the “new” Archy better to the old one.  Yeah, a lot of times there’s just no substitute for the original author (see all the Robert Ludlum wannabees), but once in a while the new writer actually improves things.  IMHO, Brandon Sanderson saved Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  And that just might be the case with Lawrence Sanders and Vincent Lardo.  More data (more books read in the series) is needed.

    8½ Stars.  Subtract 1 Star if you are partial to the charmingly, rascally Archy McNally that Lawrence Sanders penned.  We shall agree to disagree.

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