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Ed Lacy -- The Best that Ever Did It - Pulpfan

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February 19th, 2011


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03:48 pm - Ed Lacy -- The Best that Ever Did It
 Story:  A young working class man, Franklin Adersun, wins a contest, and announces to the press that he plans to spend the money to take a trip to Europe.  That evening, after celebrating at his neighborhood tavern, he and a second man are gunned down on the street.  The second man turns out to be a police detective

His widow, Betsy Turner, becomes dis-satisfied with the approach being taken by the official investigation of her husband's death.  One of the detectives, consequently, gives her a referral to a private detective, his brother-in-law, Barney Harris.

However, Harris actually does private detective work as a sideline, and, at that, mostly just does skip-tracing.  he makes the bulk of his living as an auto mechanic.  He admits to the widow that he has no experience at criminal investigation, and tries to dissuade her from hiring him.  But, needing extra money to afford a private pre-school for his daughter, and at the widow's insistence, he reluctantly agrees to investigate.

The plot then follows three distinct threads:
  • First, Barney pursues the investigation, and gradually proves his capability as a criminal investigator, by finding leads which the police have missed, figuring out the scheme that lead to the shooting, and suggesting a means of setting a trap for the shooters, which hadn't occured yet to the police nor to the FBI, who eventually become involved.
  • Second, the widow requires Barney to come by her place every evening to report his progress, and a relationship gradually, and believably, develops between them.
  • And, third, and a surprising use of a clever literary device:  every chapter is divided in two parts, the first written in first person recounting Barney's experiences, and the second part, written in third person, telling us about the schemers/shooters responsible for the crime, and the train of events which eventually led to them resorting to violence.
Positives:
  • Very good characterization -- the author gives us vivid pictures of the appearance and personalities of even relatively minor characters.
  • The author does a good job of gradually revealing the backstories of Barney, Betsy, and the killers.
  • There is a nice sense of symmetry:  a seemingly minor character, a strongman who has lost his sight, and living on disability, ends up playing a pivotal and heroic role in the final chapters, during a well described confrontation in a darkened room, in which circumstance, the blind man actually proves to have an advantage against the assailants.
  • Its a refreshing change of pace to see a detective who is a loving father, instead of a stereotypical "lone wolf".  I also appreciate that the author emphasizes that criminal investigation is not the typical work of P.I.s -- that Barney's task of skip tracing is far more typical.
Negatives:
  • One crucial clue is discovered entirely by coincidense.  However, the author "lampshades" this.  Moreover, Barney shows intelligence by immediately realizing the significance of this information, which others may have dismisses as a mere curiosity.
  • The story starts a little slowly -- its only at the end of the first chapter that we get a narrative hook.  The author devotes the bulk of the first chapter to describing the key characters, their personality and their situation.
    • That being said, if you read through to the end of the first chapter, when you get to that hook, you will probably find yourself eagerly reading through to the end of the story.
Evaluation:  Unfussy, smooth prose, appealing protagonist, engaging plot -- what's not to like?

Assessment:  Recommended!  I've enjoyed this and one other novel by Ed Lacy -- I plan to read more of them!

You can download this novel for free at this webpage.

(Or, if you want to ebay a hardcopy, look for it under its alternate title, "Visa to Death")


(2 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:dfordoom
Date:February 20th, 2011 09:43 am (UTC)
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Looks like I'll be adding Ed Lacy to my shopping list now!
[User Picture]
From:pulpfan
Date:February 21st, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
No Need to shop for Ed Lacy novels:

You can find many of them available for free download at this webpage:

http://www.munseys.com/detail/mode/author/Ed_Lacy

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