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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.
I'm having a tough time deciding where to begin a review of this book. Normally, I'd try to say something nice, so here goes: the supporting characters were an interesting lot (too bad two of them are killed off). Gideon himself, not so much.
Yeah, he's sentimental, and loyal, but I found him tedious and annoying for the most part, lurching from scene to scene until the cold case is resolved. The sub-theme of his coming to terms with his alcoholism struck me as clunky; then again, I wasn't all that invested in the girlfriend helping him with it either. By the end, I was feeling some sympathy for the villainous (according to Gideon) Bayard clan, whom he was pursuing (harassing).
The Key West setting seemed tacked on to me, could've been Hilton Head or Padre Island in the "old" days almost as well. Moreover, by the 1990's the place had become a gay mecca, yet that's barely indicated at all, aside from a death at a lesbian guesthouse and a remark early on that Gideon's family home was now a gay male one.
One item I found irritating about the narration were mentions of a "conch" accent, yet to me no one of all those locals ("our" people) had one. Gideon's brother, frankly, sounded more like he was from Illinois. Otherwise, for much of the story I felt the narrator wasn't doing enough to carry the story, until deciding that he did about the best he could with the underlying material.
Not particularly recommended.
(Review copy was provided for my honest opinion)
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I liked this story because it made me nostalgic for the hard boiled detective stories that I used to love reading growing up. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, et al. And the narrator, David A. Wood, read with the same style as Bogart did in his voice overs of the black and white movies that make me equally nostalgic. Other reviewers that may have thought the narrator sounded bored may not be old enough to understand that hard boiled detectives have that world-weary ennui that often plagues detectives who have just seen too much of human nature's dark side. It's what makes them hard boiled, for gosh sakes! It's what makes the genre great.
Although I was provided this copy by the author, narrator or publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, I became an instant fan of this series and plan to pursue more by John Leslie. This story was as familial and complex as noirish story like Chinatown. It seemed straightforward at first, but it got deeper and more complicated as the story unfolded.
If you're a fan of old school detective fiction, you will love this. If you wouldn't know a hard boiled detective from a hard boiled egg, then I suggest you try another genre.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful