It’s been one of those weeks designed mostly for recovery. Medical students had finals last week and, as a standardized patient, that meant I had lots to learn myself, then be prepared for at least a couple of long days either portraying a patient or watching my partners do so. When we have a week like this, I try to build some rest and relaxation into the planning so I can recover and get ready to go again. That’s especially important right now because next week we have to do it all again for another group of students. I love the work, but it does require a special kind of energy.
Fortunately for me, I had the perfect thing to help me wind down and relax, an engaging book that was fun to read as well as a little bit different from my typical type of book. Yes, it was a mystery of sorts, but not a murder mystery and was written more in the vain of novels featuring a “down on his luck” private investigator. This one was a little different as the private investigator is really a “jack of all trades” type guy who is currently making a living as a skip-tracer. Add to that the self-deprecating humor he uses to describe his latest case and it made for an easy, breezy read that was just the ticket for settling down to relax after a full day. For the full review, read on.
In Charles Salzberg’s SWANN’S DOWN, Henry Swann takes on two cases. The first case presented is one featuring a purported fortune teller who has taken Swann’s partner’s former wife for most of her inherited fortune. While Swann has just begun to start tracing said medium, he is approached by an attorney he’s worked for in the past who wants him to track a young woman needed to provide an alibi for his client.
Throughout the book, Swann moves between the two cases, sometimes with the questionable aid of his partner, Goldblatt. This is the fifth book in the Henry Swann series, and the explanation of who Goldblatt is and why he is now attached to Swann as an unwelcome partner may be explained in earlier books. No matter, it has nothing to do with these two cases or Swann’s activities as he works to track down the two principal’s for each case. That said, Goldblatt offers some interesting syncopation to Swann’s activities and reports, such as when he accompanies Swann to the attorney’s office or when he shows up at a restaurant where Swann has set up a meeting.
There is just enough action to keep the book moving at a good pace along with just enough suspense to underscore the reality that Swann’s chosen profession is not without danger. Swann himself is not a stranger to difficulty, nor to a lack of funds which is a major part of what drives him. Still, he comes across as a man with a reasonably good moral compass whose approach to his cases and his dealing with people while doing his job is colored by his basic sense of what might best be described as a belief in “doing the right thing.”
Swann’s activities in this book take him to two vastly different coastal communities. On the one hand, he travels to Fairhope, Alabama, across the bay from Mobile in search of a witness. For the other case, he travels out to an abandoned hotel on Coney Island in the hope that a promised meeting with an unknown man will yield some needed information without causing him bodily harm.
Throughout the book, Swann reminds himself of his job, it’s scope and its limitations. It’s possible for him to abdicate long-term responsibility for end term results by the often employed idea that “it’s not my job”. Somehow, as a reader, this seems to be an acceptable answer when employed by Swann.
In summary, this book has several things going for it: 1) The story lines are engaging with just enough mixture of suspense and lightheartedness to keep you entertained and wanting to read further. 2) Interesting characters help round out the story and make you want to read other books in the series to find out more about them and how they relate to Henry Swann. 3) A protagonist who is entertaining and who has a number of positive characteristics but also has his dark side.
One caution for those who prefer their books free of profanity. Many of these characters, including Henry Swann and Goldblatt, are rough around the edges people with lots of street smarts as well as street language.
My thanks to NetGalley and Down and Out Books for an Advanced Read copy of this book. It stands alone as it is completely self-contained. I’m delighted to have found a new author and a new protagonist to add to my list of future reads.
So, there you have my opinion of the latest book in my list. This one is scheduled to be published on May 20, 2019, so you have plenty of time to get to your local bookstore and order it or check with your local library to make sure they have ordered it and then get yourself on the waiting list. While you are waiting, if you are looking for something new to read, check some of the earlier blogs to see if anything sounds good and, as always, Happy Reading.