Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: "Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories" by Miles Archer

This short story collection by Miles Archer opens with the signature story “Never Kill A Cat.” Dolores Sorrento is elderly, very lonely, and spends much of her time reading mystery books. When she isn’t reading, she is talking to her many feline companions. That is when she is not dealing with Tommy Cooper and his parents who live across the street. Tommy Cooper is the terror of the neighborhood. Now, he has gone too far and has to pay for this crime.

Renn is supposed to be focused on the live fire exercise at the training grounds. That is a bit difficult since he and Becky had a major fight in the hours preceding. In “Murder In Uniform” Renn does what he needs to do to get through the day.

It is October of 1973 in San Francisco in “Nobody Gets Outa Here Alive.” Freddy Jones has a job he despises, but at least he has one. A routine trip for smokes on his way home turns into the most intense experience of his life. It changes the whole way he considers the world. Fortunately, his job has the tools needs to take the first steps along his new path.

Brian Donovan has lost yet another job as “Eternal Love” begins. He is a good worker, but annoys his coworkers with his attitude. His day is going to get way worse when he gets home.

The next several stories feature Doug Mc Cool over the years. As time passes, Doug McCool gets more and more into the private investigator line of work.  That process starts with “For What It’s Worth” where it is 1972 and McCool has returned from Vietnam. He is in San Francisco spending a lot of time in the VA rehab. While there he spends a lot of time with a guy Johnny White. The same Johnny White who, after discharge from rehab, became heavily involved with the Black Panthers and changed his name to Karim Africanus.

After about a year or so, McCool got a call from an attorney representing Johnny/Karim. There had been an FBI raid and Jonny/Karim was under arrest for the murder of an informer named Perkins. The attorney thinks that maybe McCool could help as some of those involved in the case might be more willing to talk to a white guy instead of the African American lawyer.

Move forward in time a few years and McCool’s latest client is Mrs. Washington in “Hell Hath No Fury.” Her daughter, Noorleen, has been arrested for murder. A criminal defense attorney McCool knows by the name of Peter Tallent told Mrs. Washington to hire McCool to do some leg work, create a report, and he might take the case pro bono. Mr. Tallent is one of the good guys and the case in interesting enough that McCool agrees to do a little digging. It quickly is clear that Norleen is in a bind because of circumstantial evidence. Once they had their suspect in the local jail they quit working the case.

His next client is also in a bind, but not with the cops.  In fact, it is because of the San Francisco cops, specifically one by the name of inspector Harry Stanton, that Mr. Mori is in McCool’s office looking for help. Mr. Mori owns a waste hauling company known as “South Metro Waste.” It operates in the south side of San Francisco in the area formerly known as “Butchertown.”  The meat packers the area is known for are no longer around, but South Metro Waste that was started in 1901 is going strong.

So strong that the mob is trying to take over his business unless he sells out to an outfit known as “United Haulers” based out of Cleveland, bad things will start happening to his family. McCool likes the guy and agrees to poke a little and see if he can figure out a way to get Mori and his family clear of the problem in “The Art of War.”

The beautiful Monica Grant appears in his office doorway in “Il Beso Di Morta.” Married to an investment banker of some type, her husband is apparently in some sort of business deal with a guy known as Dominic Abbruzio. Good old Dominic is deep in the mob and is known by his nickname “Razor.” Mrs. Grant wants McCool to get her husband out of the mess he has gotten himself in to and to do it with our husband having a clue about it.  Good thing she can pay as that hat will be easier said than done.

Author Miles Archer shifts narrator gender with his next story titled “The Miller’s Wife’s Tale.”  Told from the perspective of Barbara Brown, McCool’s everything; she has been left behind to hold the fort while McCool cavorts in Mexico with a certain lady.  She is not happy as her hair needs a touch up, she has a headache and feels bloated, and is about to have her time of the month as well as deal with clients.

One of those clients is Tammy Wingate who wants them to investigate the string of prostitute murders in the city thanks to a serial killer. She is the executive director of COYOTE, a prostitute support organization. She also has connections to the important people in the city of San Francisco. The cops aren’t getting anywhere in their case so Inspector  Dave Toshi sent her their way.

The good Inspector had no idea McCool was in Mexico, but considering Barbara is the real brains of the outfit it should not be a problem. It is one of two cases that she will handle in this story.

The final McCool tale is one of pain titled “The Black Hole.” McCool now lives in a trailer contemplating suicide by bottle or gun. It has been months since he had a client and is not in the shape for one. But, a woman by the name of Susan Sharpe is nothing if not persistent.

She is divorced and very glad to be rid of her ex-husband. While packing up some stuff across she came across a computer disk. Her ex works for a petroleum company and apparently didn’t take it with him. Somebody is making threats over the disk, Susan is scared, and needs McCool’s help. The first thing to do, after he learns what is on it, is return the damn disk. How to do that is a problem not easily solved.

The nine tales that make up Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories are all highly atmospheric and very complicated tales featuring fully developed characters. The McCool tales make up two thirds of the book while providing some very good reading. Those stories frequently play with the classic private detective stereotypes while going off in unconventional tangents. The result is a read recently published by Untreed Reads that is highly entertaining and well worth your time.

Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories
Miles Archer
Untreed Reads
November 2015
181 Pages

Material supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015


Larry W. Chavis said...

I believe I'll pick this one up. Sounds worth the time. Thanks, Kevin.

(By the way, it's always been curious to me--kill a hundred people, but never hurt an animal. Strange.)

Earl Staggs said...

I've always enjoyed Miles' work so I'm sure I won't be disappointed with this collection.