Friday, September 01, 2017

Suicide? No, murder!

     Howard Engel. The Suicide Murders (1980) The first Benny Cooperman story, and a very good one. Engel tries his hand at the hard-boiled PI style, and does pretty good job. Cooperman however is not the confident swaggerer Sam Spade, nor the ruminative Philip Marlowe, so his tone as often as not is one of wry irony. Still, the style works. We get not only an in-the-skin sense of Cooperman’s life, but also a vivid visual and tactile sense of the city. Cooperman has an eye for the telling detail that reveals character and suggests clues.
     The plot is a well done murder-staged-as-suicide. Cooperman doesn’t buy the suicide because the victim bought a ten-speed bike a couple of hours before he allegedly fired a bullet into his brain. The murderer’s motivation goes back to a decades-old murder successfully covered up as suicide. The misleading clues abound, some of the cops detest Cooperman, a couple are grateful for his leads, and Benny’s family causes him grief. A good beginning to the series, most of which I’ve read, but which I enjoy rereading. Recommended. ***

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