Friday, April 22, 2011

Forgotten Friday: The Rainy City by Earl Emerson (Ballantine, 1985)

Melissa Nadisky has run out on her poet husband and young daughter. The child’s grandfather, a powerful businessman with political connections, snatches the child just as PI Thomas Black arrives to investigate the mother’s disappearance at the behest of his law student lodger. Not long after his house is turned over and his lodger attacked. As Black starts to hunt for Nadisky, key witnesses start to die in mysterious circumstances. Undeterred he ploughs on with his investigation, aware that someone is prepared to kill to stop whatever has frightened Nadisky underground from being revealed.

As PI stories go, The Rainy City is pretty good. Black is hewn from wherever PI characters are cookie-cut and some of the characters are a little stereotypical, but the writing is expressive and tight, the plot has the right amount of twists and turns, it clips along at a jaunty pace, with plenty of action and realistic dialogue (though occasionally it becomes a little wooden), and there is a nice blend of characters. The end was no great surprise, but then few are, although Emerson does a nice job of maintaining tension to the final few pages. I have no idea why the cover shows a sinister man wearing a clown’s mask. Black's lodger does dress up as a clown at one point, but she’s a beautiful young woman. The book kept me entertained on the two flights between Dallas and Seattle, thus performing its job admirably. The Rainy City is the first in a series of nine Black books and if they improve as they go along, then this is a good starting point.


Anonymous said...

I have read a couple of Emerson's other series (Yellow Dog Party) about the fire department investigator, that series is okay. I've read but none of this series. Sounds like a somewhat rocky beginning.

Yvette said...

I, too, wrote about Earl Emerson for Forgotten Friday Books a few weeks ago. Maybe together we can get people interested in Emerson's books!! (I hated this cover, though. Yikes!) And yes, they do improve as they go along. I like the Thomas Black series very much,but I also like the Mac Fontana series by Emerson, as well. I think he is a much undervalued writer.

Rob Kitchin said...

Maybe I'll give one of Emerson's other books a go. As PI stories go, this had some promise. I wish though that someone could get past the Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe clones