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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Harry Lipkin, Private Eye (hardcover, $24)

If Dragnet's Joe Friday were Jewish, funny, 87, and a private eye in Florida, he would be Harry Lipkin.

Harry, the octogenarian, is hired by a Norma Weinberger, a rich septuagenarian, to find articles that have disappeared in her home. She suspects one of her staff. Harry meticulously investigates each in turn, discovering their secret lives. Here is Harry trying to get the taciturn chauffeur to talk to him:
I decided to give him one of those questions you have to answer. It wasn't hard. It wasn't, what is the ratio of a square root of the power of a minus ten multiplied by the angle of the circumference? Or, how can anyone eat chicken soup without matzo balls? 
It was this. "What's your name, bud? First name, second name, and any you can think of in the middle."

Harry calls on contacts he has developed over many years living in Florida to help him with pieces of the puzzle. In the process, we learn a little more about Harry. He frequently reminisces about his earlier life. For instance:

I thought about my life back then. Not a worry in the world. I drank a little. I shot craps. I met dames with big smiles and no plans for the future. Then came Hitler. I joined the Marines. Hitler's show closed they put me on a troop ship home. After a year looking for work I got a job with the Miami Police Department. After three years I'd had enough of shift work and routine. I quit being a cop and took out a Private Investigator's license. It's been one hell of a game.

Barry Fantoni does a wonderful job letting Harry Lipkin tell his own story. It's funny and poignant and unexpected.

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