Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Harry Lipkin, Private Eye by Barry Fantoni

To think that I could be taken in by an 87-year-old Jewish private investigator from page 1 is possible, but hasn't happened before. It might happen again if Barry Fantoni writes more of Harry Lipkin's adventures, and I sure hope he does.

Harry Lipkin, Private Eye is a gumshoe novel (and Harry wears real gumshoes; it's necessary. He doesn't want to break a hip) in a class by itself. Harry doesn't keep working, and not for $50 a day plus expenses in this economy, for the money and he doesn't work because he has to since he has no wife and no children. Harry keeps working because he can. He's an old fire horse still racing to the fire, although much slower these days, even though he was put out to pasture a long time ago.

Harry takes the cases the police never see. People don't run to the police for piddling thefts or any of the piddling issues that plague every-day life. People turn to investigators like Harry, which is what Mrs. Norma Weinberger does when a few of her small private possessions come up missing. She employs five people: a chauffeur, maid, cook, butler, and gardener. One of those five must be the culprit and Harry is the man to find out which one did it. The decapitated thug on Harry's front lawn he will thrown in for free.

Barry Fantoni has created a likeable character in Harry Lipkin. Harry still drives his own car, even though it is 60 years old, and still gets around like he always did, albeit a bit slower. Harry has reflux, can't sleep most nights, and shuffles when he walks, but he gets the job done and provides a bit of history and a few memories to keep things interesting.

Harry is a mensch, the kind of friend you'd look forward to eating a little something with in a deli or sipping lemon tea with on a hot day. Harry isn't much on repairs since climbing up the Matterhorn of his roof to replace some heavy gray slate tiles on the highly peaked roof above his one story home is a bit beyond his capabilities these days, but he's nearing a century of life and experience, and something has to give.

Fantoni isn't a stylistic writer and he won't win any literary awards, but for sheer story telling power and creating memorable characters, Fantoni is the writer you want to spend an evening or a weekend getting to know. I hope Harry Lipkin, Private Eye is the beginning of a beautiful new friendship and that we will be seeing each other a lot more.

No comments: