Arthur Beautyman is living in his mother’s basement in Minneapolis, with a single bed and a computer that is seriously password protected. He moved in with his mother after he was fired from his job as a detective with the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, where his computer hacking got him in trouble while trying to solve a series of grisly murders. He has been holed up in his Mother’s basement for months when she asks him to help a member of her bridge club discover where her son was for the three years between his faked suicide and his recent murder.
Although he doesn’t have a valid PI license for the State of Minnesota, he agrees to look into it. His Mother decides to help, and proposes Beautyman and Beautyman Investigations when she applies for a PI license along with Arthur. During the course of the investigation things get tense between Arthur and his mother and they follow their own paths to the solution. The Columbo/Mentalist moment comes when Mrs Beautyman invites everyone involved in the case to Thanksgiving dinner, where she says she will announce the name of the murderer.
I was a little concerned at the beginning of the book when the author began with dialogue. It generally isn’t a good idea to begin a story with dialogue (we don’t know the characters yet) or weather (“It was a dark and stormy night.”). And it took a while to discover why Arthur was unemployed and in Minneapolis in his mother’s basement.
It didn’t take long, however, for me to feel comfortable with Arthur and his mother. And although some of the character development is on the light side, there are twists to the story and characters that are reminiscent of the late Stephen J. Cannell’s work. There was a very minor problem with continuity when Arthur is served a plate of meat sauce (bolognese) with a meatball at one of the two Italian restaurants central to the story, but reports it later as a marinara sauce. I wondered, very briefly, if the book was mistitled.
Notwithstanding the improbability that two unlicensed investigators would, in reality, be allowed to proceed as Arthur and his mother do, it does make for a good story and the climax over Thanksgiving dinner was fun. If you’re looking for a mystery in the style of Elizabeth George or Kate Atkinson, you might be disappointed in the Marinara Murders, but if you’re looking for a good read with humor and interesting twists, I recommend The Marinara Murders by Erik Hanburg. I enjoyed it enough to search out the first Arthur Beautyman mystery, The Saints Go Dying, by the same author.
Title: The Marinara Murders
Author: Erik Hanberg
Publication: November 15th, 2011; Erik Hanberg
Price: $3.99 (Kindle)
Author’s Website: http://erikemery.posterous.com/