Sunday, January 28, 2018

Natalie McMasters Is No Nancy Drew - A Female Detective For The New Millenium

If you are one of those people who likes detective fiction, (And really - are there people who don't?), I can't think of a better investment of your time and money than Stakeout by Tom Burns.

The money part is the really good deal
And then there is the time part. Stakeout is only 24 pages.  As I was reading it I was getting nervous that it was some sort of teaser and that I was going to have to jump through some other hoop or, God forbid, spend some money to avoid being left hanging on the cliff, but Stakeout is a satisfyingly complete, if rather compact short story.  So seriously, give up the like and shoot the email.  You won't regret it.

Short Story - Short Review

I can like a story for any of three reasons - character, plot and setting.  Stakeout is very strong on plot with a classic ticking clock that kept me on edge. And Natalie McMasters, the first person narrator, is engaging and likable with a great sense of humor and she paints a wonderful picture of her mentor/boss/ detective uncle. 

Natlaie is a twentiesh college student private detective trainee working for her uncle.  Their work is extremely mundane - monitoring "the disabled" on behalf of insurance companies. But what will she do if she notices something beyond feigned disability?

In my role as critic, I would say that setting is on the weak side, being somewhat generic.  The school Natalie attends is called State and I could really not get much of a feel for where in the country things were happening.  Also nothing I noted to placed the story in time. Finally there is one key character, who I think should have been fleshed out better.

Can't give you much more without creating plot spoilers, but really you should go for it.  If you get hooked on Natalie, Tom has a novel waiting in the wings.  It's the movie I am really looking forward to, but that may take a while.

Full Disclosure

Tom Burns, not a nom de plume, is one of my best friends from high school.  He is a recurring character in my memoir series and even made a contribution - Xavier High School Memories Of The First Inspection.  As students we shared many of the same reading tastes. Jean Shepherd (although that was more his radio work) and Robert Heinlein come to mind.  Some of my fondest memories of teenage years are walking up Fifth Avenue from 16th Street to 42nd street talking with Tom.  One literary passion of his that I did not take up until later was Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe.  Natalie, in spite of being a cute blond college student does have just a bit of Stout's Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the Wolfe novels, about her.   A realistic eye for the foibles of humanity transcends time, space and gender.

Peter J Reilly writes about taxes for and, on this platform, in the words of Tom Burns - "anything he damn well pleases".