Between the gentle trade winds and the thriving tourist trade, the year-round summer days and the languid nights, the living is easy in Key West. That's just the way P.I. Gideon Lowry likes it.
These days, when he's not bird-dogging AWOL witnesses for the state attorney's office, Gideon's at the keyboard, giving them Gershwin and Porter to chase away the blues and help chase down the booze.
That's where Virginia Murphy finds him. Shrouded in somber white, she's come back to Key West to lay a real ghost to rest - by finding out who murdered her sister, Lila, nearly 40 years before.
For Gideon, it's a gig that leads him down the darker side of memory lane - where haunting snatches of his own past, like the timeless melodies he plays, linger on. Secrets linger there, too. But they're buried as deeply as the paradise that was Florida's landscape, now entombed beneath the concrete of Bayard Cement. That ubiquitous family business - and the wealthy, influential clan behind it - are a wall that Gideon slams up against harder and harder as he investigates his hometown's hidden history.
That's when Gideon takes the pledge - to unlock the shocking truth that Key West has concealed too long beneath its sunny, sultry surface, and to face a killer's music and dance.
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"Just a backwater at the end of the road..."
Key West might be changing with the influx of carpet baggers in the 1970s and'80s sending up the cost of housing and reducing the power of the political dynasties of the past, but for it's long time residents it is still very insular, never fully accepting of outsiders. Gideon Lowry has lived there all of his 57 years, apart from a two year stint of army service. He is not ambitious, unlike his brother who left to pursue a career in politics. He stayed on, working daytime as a P.I., playing piano at the weekends, had three (failed) marriages and now lives alone apart from his cat, Tom, and a good supply of alcohol. He rides his bicycle round the city he knows and where he is known, just getting on with his life.
Until a woman in white comes into his bar, another hard drinker about his own age, and she wants his help - to find out what really happened to her sister, found dead 40 years before when he was away fighting in Korea. The case had never been solved. Instead it was quietly buried. There is something intriguing, unsettling about the woman and Gideon is unsure about taking this case: he doesn't remember the girl or the murder despite having attended the same school. Then the woman in white is herself found dead a few days later...
This is a well crafted, old fashioned made modern detective noire after the fashion of Chandler, the world weary detective poking around in old lives and turning up more than anticipated. The characterisations are lightly drawn but three dimensional nevertheless, often flawed but all the more real because of it, from the elderly, regal matriarch of one of the old fading power families, the superior attitude of the head of another, to Lowry himself, with his suspicions, cynicism and fight against his descent into full alcoholism.
With a deep, drawling narration, David Wood is the perfect voice for Lowry, the sardonic, heavy.drinking pianist as he reviews not only the murder case and the other events occuring around him, but also the extent of his life so far. Wood also gently but distinctively coerces out the characters of the other players when he gives voice to their conversation and is especially good at presenting Casey, long time friend and sometimes lover of the detective, with a simple modulation of tone. The whole was a pleasure to hear.
I was very fortunate in being gifted my copy of Killing me Softly by the rights holder, via Audiobook Boom. My thanks for this. With it's attention to detail and atmosphere, it had a complexity of characters and plot direction which was constantly interesting without losing it's way. I can honestly recommend this book to all who enjoy a good mystery story and especially lovers of detective noire. I notice that there are three more books in the Gideon Lowery Key West Mystery series and I hope that they, too, will also be available on audio soon, again read by the delectable Mr.Wood. I, for one, would immediately purchase them.
- Norma Miles