"Curse of the Jade Lily" by David Housewright
Reviewed by David Marshall James
" 'This is going to be fun,' I said. 'Like those old "Thin Man" movies on TCM with William Powell and Myrna Loy.' "
Thus speaks Rushmore McKenzie in David Housewright's latest McKenzie (no one calls him by his first name) mystery, and he's right on the button.
McKenzie gets his Asta in one bind after another, but he always comes up sarcastic, if not smiling.
The ex-cop and lifelong resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, is back in is element, investigating insurance fraud, which (thanks to a big reward) has already landed him in a comfy early retirement in which he indulges his penchant for pricey kitchen gadgetry and his Batmanian sense of justice.
A newly established local museum is missing one of its on-loan artifacts, the titular Jade Lily. The Lily's insurer hires McKenzie to accommodate the thieves' monetary request, in exchange for the pilfered piece.
More to the point, the thieves have requested him for the drop-off-- part of what has him puzzling.
Would that the matter were as simple as it sounds.
McKenzie begins to unveil a rogues' gallery of characters, all attempting to spin a buck off the Lily and its supposedly cursed history.
Housewright blends all the tried-and-true components of detective fiction, including noir-ish characters and colorful street villains, as well as salty cops with peppery vocabularies.
The author doffs his literary cap to Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon," to throwback-to-noir dames with names such as Heavenly Petryk, Von Tarpley, and India Cooper.
Housewright can be on and of the street when he so desires, but McKenzie has a retro heart. How many ex-cops have the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong cover of "Summertime" as their cell ringtone?
McKenzie is one of the most appealing protagonists in modern detective fiction, and he's right on the money, once again: This is fun.
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