Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review of Fletch by Gregory McDonald (1974, Avon)

Fletch is a twenty seven year old, twice divorced, former marine turned investigative journalist. His present assignment has him living undercover among a strung-out beach community trying to discover the source of the local drug supply. There he’s approached by a multi-millionaire, Alan Stanwyk, who wants him to commit a murder in a few days time then flee with fifty thousand dollars to Buenos Aires. The victim is to be Stanwyk himself. Intrigued, Fletch agrees to the job hoping to close the beach case and quickly get to the bottom of Stanwyk’s proposition.

Fletch is the first in a series of nine books featuring the investigative journalist. In this outing he’s trying to uncover the source of the drugs blighting a beach community and get to the bottom of why Alan Stanwyk wants to be murdered for a fee. It’s a tightly written story, mainly driven by dialogue-heavy encounters, with Fletch working away at both stories through on-the-ground digging and impersonation. While the character might work for some, and is no doubt a fair reflection of a certain kind of man, I found him tiresome and annoying: Fletch is a lying, cheating, conniving, arrogant, self-centred, know-it-all misogynist with dubious morals (he’s sleeping with a fifteen year old drug-addict while working undercover, he’s giving both his ex-wives the run-around, and he’s killed the cat belonging to one of them) – qualities that make him a good journalist but a fairly shitty person. While crime fiction is littered with anti-heroes, they usually have a quality that endears them in some way to the reader. In this case, it's dark humour, but that didn't do sufficient work for me. The result was a kind of lighter-hearted PI tale that had two main strands which work their way to a somewhat inevitable but nicely wrapped up denouement, but had a lead character for whom I couldn’t care less.

1 comment:

George said...

I remember reading and enjoying FLETCH when it was first published. The later books in the series weren't as much fun.