Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Last Coincidence

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Last Coincidence (Bantam, 1989).

I enjoyed this novel considerably more than Goldsborough's previous Nero Wolfe adventure. While last time out, we were treated to a pacey, slow, made-for-Centrum Silver account of a boring nothing of a case, this time there's a much punchier story that hits much closer to the brownstone. Thirty-five pages in and somebody's dead and Cramer is bellowing at Archie, who had the misfortune of starting an argument in the street with the dead somebody in front of witnesses shortly before he was killed by an ugly blow to the head, his body next to his Porsche.

Keeping things personal by involving the family of regular supporting player Lily Rowan gives the story a real sense of urgency. Archie's with the characters as events play out, and a false confession is extracted from Lily's nephew. As with the later Rex Stout novels, distrust of the police is important to the story's tone, but there's more than one weird coincidence at work here, especially the way that nobody seems to have an alibi.

There are some eyebrow-raising moments where the tone doesn't feel quite right, such as having Archie twice refer to somebody as a "chap," which seemed hugely out of character. Otherwise, this is a very loving pastiche, and a clever and engaging story that really kept me guessing and surprised. It has renewed my hopes that the next three Goldsborough novels will be as fun as the first two had been.

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