Friday, April 4, 2014

The Big Goodbye by Michael Lister (Pulpwood Press, 2011)

1943 and Jimmy Riley is a private investigator in Panama City in Northern Florida. A year previously he’d been a cop, but then he’d met and started an affair with femme fatale, Lauren Lewis, who is married to a banker with political ambitions.  Riley had fallen head-over-heels for Lauren, but their relationship soon floundered, and he became so distracted that he lost an arm to a shotgun blast and was invalided out of the police.  Now Lauren thinks that someone is following her and is acting erratically, people are threatening Riley, and her husband is bewildered.  All Riley knows is that he’s still obsessed with Lauren and will do anything to stop her coming to harm, regardless of what she wants or the consequences.

The Big Goodbye is a hardboiled, noir, PI story set during the Second World War era in Florida.  Lister keeps the writing snappy and the pace high as the main character, one-armed Jimmy Riley helter-skelters blindly from one situation to the next as he tries to work out what is happening with respect to his old girlfriend.  The plot is strength of the book, with a nice mix of feints and twists.  However, the storytelling tries a little too hard to create a particular style and atmosphere, the characters often verge on caricatures, and a consequence of pace is an underplaying of sense of place and historical contextualisation - it’s all about the puzzle and the relationship between Riley and Lauren.  Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable read, especially if you like hardboiled noir.


Rick Robinson said...

Looks like you meant to type the correct title, THE BIG GOODBYE but Raymond Chandler got in your way. This is an interesting book, by the way.

Rob Kitchin said...

What happens with jetlag! I'm at the other end of Florida and will be down in Key West tomorrow before heading to Tampa on Sunday.