Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dave Zeltserman, Julius Katz and Archie

Dave Zeltserman, Julius Katz and Archie
Top Suspense Books, 2011
Available as an ebook

All too obviously patterned on the Nero Wolfe books, Boston PI Julius Katz (assisted  by his extremely small but extremely powerful digital assistant Archie) accepts a job offered  by fading Boston author, Kenneth Kingston.  The job is, as presented, not much of a job--help Kingston stage a confrontation between him and six people, one of whom, he alleges, planning to kill him.  The six are his wife, his agent, his editor, a PI he has collaborated with, his former writing partner, and a book critic.  When Katz meets with them (at 2 PM; Kingston is scheduled to join them at 2:30), he engages in mostly small-talk.  But Kingston does not show up.  He is, in fact, dead,  Murdered.  Katz initially wants nothing to do with the murder, but the Cambridge detective (Inspector Kramer) harasses him and someone attempts to kill him.  So he is dragged into the investigation.  It's a reasonable set-up, and reaches a plausible conclusion. 

But along the way...First of all, the book was very badly line-edited.  Second, in a sub-plot, Katz is trying to figure our who is cheating him at poker.  In a (not very plausible) set-piece, he and the cheat wind up being the only two left, and they continue raising each other.  OK.  But Katz then offers up the deed to  his house, in which he claims to have $60,000 in equity.  Assuming that the story is set in 2010 or so, the sort of house he seems to be living in (4 stories, a basement with a wine cellar, land enough for a small garden) would probably have had a market value of at least $600,000 on Boston.  So he would seem to have a $540,000 (or greater) mortgage which he would still be on the  hook for.  Also, he would not have the deed--the financial institution holding the mortgage would have the deed.  Minor, but an annoyance.  Third, there is a lot of chatter about which of the suspects is a psychopath, a sociopath, or a narcissist, which is annoying. 

And finally (and to me most annoying), Zeltserman must feel that he has to beat  you over the head with the Nero Wolfe references.  Three outside PIs whom Katz uses--Tom Durkin, Saul Penzer, and Willie Cather.  The detective--Kramer.  His inamorata--Lily Rosten.  Honestly, we'd get the Wolfe references without all that.  (At least he doesn't have a cook named Fritz Bonner...)  Good enough to read another, but just barely.

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