Here is a quick paperback by an author I have never read before. To be honest, this is another one of those books that I would “typically” not be drawn to. However, this is the Great Effort of reading things outside of the usual selections – and clearing out the tremendous bookshelves. A Trouble of Fools by Linda Barnes is the first in the Carlotta Carlyle series, first published in 1987. I read the St. Martin’s Paperbacks 2006 edition, but I did want to glance at the internet to see if I could see what the original cover looked like.
The start of the book gave me a little trouble. I felt that I could not really get my footing, which is somewhat silly in a little pulpy detective thing. It also took a few chapters for me to acclimate to the main character’s “voice.” But the main character grows on you. She seems to be a really good balance between messy and disorganized and functional and efficient. If she was too one way or the other, I think she would have been a lot less likeable. She really carries the book start to finish – and so it is very necessary that the reader get comfortable with Carlotta’s perspective and voice. One of secondary elements that I want to briefly praise is that Carlotta is supposed to be a kind of tough ex-cop who can be sharp and abrasive if need be, but she does not come with overwhelming toxic amounts of snark and sarcasm. Her wit is measured and not overdone. I appreciate that quite a bit.
The main character owns a cat. And a bird. These are always story enhancements.
The story takes place in Boston in the 1980s. Naturally, oh so naturally, I enjoyed this. I miss the northeast. And I miss the northeast in the 80s. A lot.
In Boston, which has ample parking for, say, one in ten of its residents – not to mention commuters – not owning a car makes sense. You save – not only on parking tickets, but on medical expenses for mental-health-related ailments. — pg. 41 (chapter 6)
Some of the most amusing elements are when the characters have to use phones! Hey – landlines, PAY PHONES. Remember all that stuff? Heh!
The storyline was sufficient – the author actually surprised me with her skill in tying the threads into one cogent and reasonable plot. I am also going to give an extra star of appreciation to the climactic scene wherein a surprise “player” is actually the one to deal with the bad guy. I am impressed because I did not see that coming and it is both fitting and interesting. I say interesting, because honestly, it is a wee bit of a gutsy move for the author.
Just like Sherlock and his “many helpers,” it seems that the standard “private investigator rules” are somewhat in place. The private investigator must always have a batch of very willing helpers, odd as they may be, that help facilitate the work needed. I am on the lookout for novels with a p.i. that does not have any reliance on a team of “helpers.” This is not a negative at all, just an observation of the genre. This is short novel, very comfortable length; I am glad that the author knew when to wrap this story up.
By the way, one of these supporting characters, Gloria, is an absolute treasure and a large part of the reason I own book two.
Good for those who are looking for a female detective/cop character. Good for those who remember and understand the 80s. A quick read, a quick-TARDIS ride back to the 80s. I will probably read book two in the Carlotta Carlyle series.