this is the 142nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
Torch Town Boogie by Steven Womack, Ballantine Books paperback original, November 1993 ($4.99) – Harry Denton, private investigator
Fire is scary enough, arson downright frightening and the latest fire is so close to Harry Denton’s apartment that he can stand in his bedroom and watch the conflagration from his window. The newspapers have dubbed – not very creatively – the person starting fires all over Eastern Nashville the “East Nashville Arsonist” and this time the house torched was the best in the neighborhood, a big old Victorian belonging to wealthy psychotherapist Will Elmore, whose burnt remains are found in the basement. Harry gets a call from his ex-wife Lanie who wants his help. Seems she and Elmore were engaged and Elmore had already changed his will so she’ll get everything, which makes her – you guessed it – the prime suspect.
This Harry’s second case. He’s now been a P.I. for ten months, and he’s still struggling to keep his business going and pay his meager expenses, like rent on his one room office and his two room apartment. His old Ford’s on it’s last legs and he needs a case, any case. That doesn’t mean he’s particularly happy when his ex-wife wants to hire him, but the fact is he needs the money.
Sometimes when I’m reading a mystery I have to make myself remember that people do things without thinking about the consequences. It’s easy enough for me as a reader, with the whole past, present and future sequence of events in my hands, to think at a character “Oh come on, you’re not really going to do ‘that’, are you?” Yet when I consider, ‘that’ is perfectly logical in the context of events from the character’s point of view. Not smart, maybe, but logical. It’s just that I know this is a murder mystery, and something bad’s due to happen pretty soon, and this is pretty obviously gonna be it, and if the character is smart he’ll turn right around, go home and read a book. Now wouldn’t that make an exciting story. So characters do things that turn out to be a bad idea, that’s the way life is, and when it comes to bad ideas it seems Harry Denton is on a roll in this book; taking his ex-wife’s case, getting involved with an arson investigation, lying to the cops and then things really start to go downhill.
The one thing that’s going good for Harry is his love life. He and his girlfriend Marsha, an MD at the Medical Examiner’s Office, are getting closer by the day, and that gives this tale of arson and murder a nice place to go when Harry’s not getting himself into trouble. I liked the first book in this series, Dead Folks Blues, (reviewed here) and I liked this one even better.
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can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase