Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Devil Met A Lady - Stuart M. Kaminsky

This is the last of the Toby Peters books loaned to me, and it's an appropriate choice in some ways. Toby may not be entering Detective Murtaugh, "I'm too old for this shit" territory, but he's creeping closer.

Things are progressing in that direction on many fronts. He neighbor and friend Gunther has fallen in love. His landlord and former wrestler Jeremy is married and has a daughter. Even Toby's brother Phil can't muster up much heat towards Toby once dead bodies start appearing. His wife is sick, he has his kids to worry about, and frankly, I think he's sort of given up on Toby. Everyone else is moving forward in their lives, but Toby just keeps on as a regularly destitute privater detective. He has a cat now, but he's still using Shelly's closet as an office, still fruitlessly pursuing Carmen the waitress. Still doing grocery runs for the lady who runs his boarding house. But even he seems to be getting beat up more than usual.

As to the specifics of The Devil Met a Lady, Toby is hired to protect Bette Davis. Her husband's working on some new bombsight, and someone claiming to have a compromising record of her wants the plans for the bombsight, or else they might kidnap Davis. I don't know, it's a little muddled. Kaminsky admits in an afterword that the story is a little too comic, that he took inspiration from Satan Met a Lady, a less-than-serious version of The Maltese Falcon Davis starred in. Given Toby and Bette are being regularly imperiled by a group of failed actors turned kidnappers, I wouldn't disagree with that assessment. It isn't a bad thing, necessarily. Toby's hardly an ace investigator. His style largely involves plodding forward, absorbing punishment until he stumbles his way to a resolution. Placing him against adversaries who are as concerned with demonstrating their acting chops to Bette Davis as they are anything else almost levels the playing field.

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