"Caper" by Parnell Hall
Pegasus Books, 250 pp., $25
Reviewed by David Marshall James
When an attractive, buxom blonde tosses a case-- specifically, a peculiar case involving her teenaged daughter-- at a hormonally challenged P.I., then all the more reason for him to check her out.
Make that "background check."
If she's clutching a couple of grand, then he ought to proceed swiftly, once the Ben Franklin's pass from her hand to his, the better not to lose out on the big green retainer.
She can always be billed for the background check.
If she's not flashing a bankroll, then the P.I. should at least request a photo I.D. and a recent gas & electric bill.
Save himself a lot of trouble on a penny-ante case.
However, Stanley Hastings is, as he puts it, "a second-rate P.I. doing a third-rate job." That is, he investigates slip-and-fall (and trip-and-fall) claims for uber NYC attorney Richard Rosenberg.
IOW: Stanley could use a little spice in his life, and not just in his grab-lunch burrito.
Furthermore, his hormones are high-kicking like the Rockettes on Red Bull as he lusts across his desk for that "hot mom" wannabe-client. Perhaps, if he were working for himself-- without the Rosenbergian net-- he would hail discretion as the better part of valor.
However, in the interest of intrigue-- and most assuredly in the absence of any likenesses of Ben Franklin, past or present-- he starts tailing (so to speak) the Lolita-ly luscious daughter of Mrs. Hot Mom.
Suddenly, Stanley's up to his hormonal weathervane (to put it nicely) in mayhem and murder, proceeding from one cloak-and-dagger caper to the next, pretending to be a florist's delivery boy here, an advertising executive there.
He even takes a train ride that would thrill Alfred Hitchcock, all in the name of his staying on his game.
Author Parnell Hall laces a zippy plot with zingy dialogue. Then, there are Stanley's interior monologues, some of which would leave Hamlet muttering, "Say what?"
Hall-- also author of the cruciverbalist "Puzzle Lady" mysteries-- seems to have read more than a little James Thurber. If now were the late 1940s-- we wish-- then Stanley Hastings short stories would probably be spilling from the pages of The New Yorker.
* * *