Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Robert Goldsborough

Beginning in 1986, Robert Goldsborough published 7 Nero Wolfe novels (with the permission of the estate of Rex Stout) in 8 years; more recently, he has written two more.  I have them all, and I was glad to be able to read new Wolfe mysteries, but there was always something missing (the two most recent ones are better in that respect).  After a while, I thought I knew what it was--Goldsborough was unable to get Archie's "voice" right, and, since everything is seen from his viewpoint, everything was just slightly off. 

So I was interested in seeing what Goldsborough would do with a character of his own, and I now have had a chance to get into the Steve ("Snap") Malek books.  Malek is a reported for the Chicago Tribune (where Goldsborough worked for years), working out of  the press room of police headquarters, in the 1930s and 1940s.  The first book (of 5) in the series is Three Strikes, You're Dead, involving the murder of a wealth Chicago political reformer about the make a run for mayor in 1937.  In the second, Shadow of the Bomb, two physicists at the University of Chicago die--because of their participation in the atomic bomb research underway?  Or for some other reason?  (Enrico Fermi makes a cameo appearance.)

Malek in an interesting character (and I have and will read the next three books), but, at least in the first two, the endings are somewhat anti-climactic.  In both books, Malek becomes involved in his own investigation of the murders (rather than being just a reporter).  But, also in both cases, his investigations (while they uncover some interesting things) never lead him to the solutions of the crimes.  In both cases, the murderers take actions (attacks on Malek) that reveal his identity.  But in neither case did Malek, in fact, have a clue as to what was actually going on.

This is, ultimately, unsatisfactory.  If we are to remain interested in the activities of an amateur sleuth, that sleuth must (it seems to me), ultimately, uncover the truth.  To have the truth revealed only because the murderer was too incompetent to finish Malek off is, well, a let-down.  But, for now, I'm off to read #3, A Death in Pilsen.

UPDATE: 11 June 20144: Having finished A Death in Pilsen, I'm sorry to say that we now have three instances of Malek failing to solve a mystery.  In this case, the murderer commits suicide and leaves an extremely detailed suicide note, explaining why and how the murder was accomplished.  Oh, well...two more shots for Malek actually to detect something...