Monday, June 13, 2011

Fletch's Moxie

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 Fletch's Moxie (Warner, 1982).

I'm afraid that, as I saw with the downward quality trajectory of Harry Kemelman, the 1970s were kinder to Gregory Mcdonald than the 1980s. I'd already been very disappointed with Carioca Fletch; 1982's Fletch's Moxie is nowhere as bad, but it is bloated and very dull for much of its page count.

This time out, Fletch, still claiming to be writing the biography of some obscure painter, is in Florida on the set of what sounds like a terrible motion picture. The star, a childhood flame, is suspected of the murder of her manager. Fletch, Moxie and her father decamp to Key West, and the Hollywood glitterati follow them, leading to chaos and race riots as events spiral out of control.

It sounds like the recipe for a story that I would enjoy greatly, but it's done with no passion for the plot, and a lot of really obnoxious characters. Moxie doesn't do anything to inspire Fletch's loyalty in this book, and there are passages where the prurience level gets so ridiculous that it all seems like the author is working out some squicky fantasies.

To be fair, Mcdonald very nearly pulls it off at the end, with a very satisfying resolution to the murder and a very clever twist showing how Fletch was also working on another mystery that I wasn't sure was actually something I was supposed to be following. Maybe this is a case of a very good writer getting distracted; I hope that it doesn't mean subsequent adventures are as tawdry and navel-gazing as this one. Not recommended.

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