Harry Stoner is a PI in the classic Chandler mould, but with a more sentimental and romantic side. Having completed a profitable out-of-town job, against his better judgement he decides to take a charity case – an old man with little means to pay is trying to track down a young, homeless girl that he’s befriended. It soon transpires that the girl has been co-opted into a child prostitution ring by a young, handsome couple, and soon Stoner is questioning various low lifes, although it’s clear the answer to her whereabouts lies amongst a circle of rich men that prey on naïve and vulnerable children. With everybody warning him to give up the case, Stoner carries on regardless, knowing that even if he does find Cindy Ann Evans, it’s unlikely to have a happy ending either for her or himself.
As I noted yesterday, Jonathan Valin is a great observational writer of both characters and places. In Harry Stone he created a multi-layered, complex and flawed character that one immediately identifies with and cares about, and the book is populated with a myriad of other memorable and well drawn characters. The pacing is good and the dialogue snappy and realistic, and the contextualisation is strong without being overbearing. I thought the first half of the book was excellent, but the story started to slip a bit in the second half losing a bit of coherence and realism. Without giving any spoilers, my feeling was that Stoner’s judgement becomes suspect and slightly out of character and I think the story could have been resolved more effectively. Otherwise, I thought The Lime Pit was a great read and Stoner is definitely a character I want to catch up with.