Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: The Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Funny look at PI conventions
Cons: A bit hard for my tastes
The Bottom Line:
Hard boiled PI spoof
Features fun main character
Learning truth of job

Everything He Needed to Know About Detecting He Learned from TV

Harvey Mapes leads a rather dull life. He works nights as a security guard outside an exclusive community in Camarillo. To pass the time, he reads private eye novels. Growing up, he's watched all the classic detective shows on TV as well.

One day, one of the residents stops by the booth to hire Harvey. Cyril Parkus thinks his wife is up to something, so he wants Harvey to follow her for a few days to find out what is happening. Harvey jumps at the chance and spends the day before watching Mannix reruns to prepare for the case.

The first couple of days are rather boring, but Harvey is proud of the skills he's developing even if he's making blunders along the way as well. Then he hits pay dirt. And gets beat up for his efforts. In more pain then he expected, he thinks he's beginning to get a handle on the case when the first body shows up. In over his head but refusing to give up, Harvey must use every ounce of detective skill he ever had to stay alive and put the pieces together.

This book takes the cliches of the PI genre and clashes them with the real world. The result is an often amusing but still dark tale. The plot takes several unexpected twists before reaching the logical conclusion. The humor is mainly focused in the beginning since the story gets darker as it progresses.

Harvey Mapes is a very likable hero. He starts off pretty naive, even if he doesn't think so, but matures rapidly as the story progresses. In many ways, this is a coming of age tale with a mystery. By the end, he is struggling with what he has done to solve the case and deal with the differences between fiction and reality.

The author, Lee Goldberg, keeps the story moving rapidly from one scene to the next making for a fast read. The first person narration is wonderful since it allows us to further understand Harvey and all he is going through.

I did have a problem with this book - the language, sex, and violence. I knew going into this is was much darker and hard boiled then I normally like and chose to read it anyway. As I suspected, these elements turned me off at times. Still, I kept reading and was drawn into the story as I progressed. Obviously, this is personal and not a flaw with the book itself.

Overall, I am glad I read The Man With The Iron-On Badge. It was entertaining and kept me turning the pages.

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