It seems like I read one Ross Thomas book a year, so I picked up this book. It looks as though my reading has been skipping through Thomas’s decades of writing, with my first read being 1972′s The Porkchoppers and my second being 1982′s The Mordida Man
Like the latter, this book is a straight ahead thriller, and it’s the third book using the same set of characters–but the first I’d read. I was going along, thinking Thomas’s books were all one shots and appreciating the wonder of the detailed back story he’d created for each of these characters until I researched it and realized he was rehashing things from earlier books. I don’t know if this soured me, but I think that the glimpses of the back story stood in for character development. The motives of some of them were unclear, but it was responses to earlier actions not covered in this book. Sadly, this was less effective.
The plot revolves around a London-based, American-run detective agency that is hired to find two hypnotists. The hypnotists were hired to consult with a Hollywood film actress arrested for the murder of her boyfriend, a wealthy producer. After consulting with her, the hypnotists vanished, and no one is sure whether they vanished because they found out something or if they are to blackmail the starlet with revelations she made while under oath.
The two detectives get the old band back together. This band includes a former Secret Service agent they have to spring from a Phillipine prison; a con artist; and an aging fixer/procurer/scrounger. They rent a house in Malibu and begin their investigations.
As I said, I think ultimately, the author relied a bit much on the reader being familiar with the previous books in the series. Individuals really weren’t that well delineated in the text, and the ensemble plotted a bit behind the scenes against itself. Which was revealed a bit in the climax and beyond, but not so much in text. And the ultimate solution to the murder–which differs from the solution for the problem for which the agency was hired–was kinda tacked on and not integral to the main story arc.
The book wasn’t the best of the Thomas books I’ve read. It’s his penultimate work, and at the back of the book, they have the page to order a number of his other books. None of which I’ve read (yet). I thought this book was so-so, and I’m hopefully that reading his earlier work will show that it evolved to this book: that is, a straight ahead, indistinguishable paperback thriller whose predecessors, so to speak, were better.
Books mentioned in this review: