Monday, March 18, 2019

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: Dancing in the Dark by Stuart M. Kaminsky

Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was a wondrously gifted author who wrote more than 60 mystery novels and several volumes on cinema. Mystery Writers of America awarded him the title of Grand Master in 2006 and the Private Eye Writers of America gave him The Eye Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He had four series characters: Lew Fonesca, a sad process server in Sarasota, Florida, six books released between 1999 and 2009; Abe Lieberman, a Jewish police detective in Chicago, 10 books released between 1990 and 2007; Porfiry Rostnikov, a philosophical police inspector in Moscow, Russia, 16 books released between 1981 and 2010; and Toby Peters, a private investigator in Los Angeles whose clients were 1930s and 1940s movie stars, 24 books released between 1977 and 2004.

I read a few of the Lew Fonesca books some time ago, and the Toby Peters series has been on my TBR list for a while. So, when I found a copy of Dancing in the Dark (Mysterious Press, 1996) in one of my interminable book clean-outs, I took it as a sign. In this, #19 of Toby’s adventures, Fred Astaire has attracted the interest of a determined girlfriend of a Detroit mobster. She wants Astaire to teach her to dance and to undertake other activities with her, much to his dismay.  While the mobster changed his name when he relocated to Los Angeles, he did not otherwise change his thuggish ways, and Astaire has valid concerns about his future health and well-being.

Astaire is focusing on his wartime bond-raising tour and signs Toby up to teach the girlfriend in his place. Toby unfortunately has two left feet, as the saying goes, and makes a poor substitute.  When the girlfriend turns up dead in a ballroom where Toby and his friends are the logical suspects, Toby scrambles to protect himself, his friends, and Fred Astaire from the mobster’s wrath.

Excellent investigative work wrapped in effortless Golden Age Hollywood period detail. The scene where Toby borrows Cornel Wilde’s dinner jacket for an impromptu turn across the stage of Wiltern Theatre in front of a huge audience is side-splitting. An entertaining read.

·         Hardcover: 228 pages
·         Publisher: Mysterious Press; First edition (January 1, 1996)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0892965282
·         ISBN-13: 978-0892965281

Aubrey Hamilton ©2019

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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