This is Parnell Hall’s 42nd mystery novel—19 featuring PI/accident investigator Stanley Hastings, 17 “Puzzle Lady” books, and 6 cases handled by actor-turned-attorney Steve Winslow. The first two series are still active (a “Puzzle Lady” book has been published in 2016), while the most recent Winslow book dates to 1993 (which is too bad; I love the Winslow books). I had no idea that Parnell had been this productive--42 books in 29 years, maintaining a consistent level of quality throughout.
Hastings works as an accident investigator for personal injury lawyer Richard Rosenberg, who might be the king of New York City personal injury lawyers. And while the injury cases are Stanley’s way of making a living, things keep coming up, things that involve murder. This time, Rosenberg’s girlfriend has been murdered, and Rosenberg is the prime suspect. She died around midnight, and he left her apartment shortly enough before midnight that he’s in the picture.
The girlfriend is a clerk in the courtroom of a judge handling a very complex, very tedious financial case. And what’s happening there may—or may not—be tied somehow into her death.
Hastings’ homicide cop friend—McAulliffe—is not handling the murder; Sgt. Thurman, who hates Hastings, and Rosenberg, is. And Thurman, while honest, is not a particularly skilled investigator. And Rosenberg finds himself charged, and defending himself (he’s the lawyer with a fool for a client). For a change, Stanley does not approach his investigations on behalf of Rosenberg entirely haphazardly, although his wife (Alice) does continue to point out his shortcomings as an investigator. The best parts of the book, for me, are Rosenberg’s cross-examinations, In particular one of them involving the time of death.
While the denouement seems a bit forced—and a lot rushed—this is a fun book to read. (Despite its 200+ pages, it’s an easy afternoon’s reading.) Not a great book, or a great PI series, it’s satisfying and provided me, at least, with a good deal of pleasure.