Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Wake Up, Little Susie by Ed Gorman

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting characters in a solid mystery
Cons: Slow start, Sam's love life
The Bottom Line:
Trip to the 50's
As murder hits a small town
With the Ford Edsel

The Body in the Edsel

Wake Up Little Susie was the second book Ed Gorman wrote about Sam McCain, part time lawyer and PI in a small Iowa town during the 50's.  So why did I read it first?  The book is set a few months before the events in the first book in the series.  Since I had a copy of this book and didn't have the first, I figured that was a good excuse to start with what I had.

It's a day Sam McCain and other car enthusiasts have been looking forward to for a while.  The Ford Motor Company is releasing their new design, the Edsel, in dealerships all over the country.  But it turns out the design is less than appealing.

The real shock in town, however, is the body that is found in the trunk of one of the models.  Susan Squires was the second wife of David Squires, an ambitious attorney in town.  A part time PI, Sam is asked to look into the murder and beat the crooked chief of police to the solution.  But as Sam begins to dig, he uncovers a trail of scandal.  Does he have what it takes to find the killer?

I did not live through the 50's, but I love history and easily get nostalgic.  That happened for me on page one and the feeling never left until after the book was over.  A warm glow overshadowed the entire book.  The references to pop culture from the time made me smile.

As our main character and narrator, Sam McCain is the best developed character.  He's pretty smart except when it comes to his love life.  In fact, that's the one area I really wanted to smack him around.  Not only is there a love triangle (or really square) involved, but he's sleeping with someone else.  That actually put me off him for a few chapters, but I did warm back up to him.

The other characters took a bit more time to become real to me.  Part of that was because I felt overwhelmed at the beginning.  Maybe I should have read the first book first after all.  But as I kept reading, I sorted them all out and really got to like several of them.  It's obvious to me which way the love story should go even at this early a date.  The most interested character is Sam's boss, snobbish Judge Esme Anne Whitney who has a habit of shooting rubber bands at him.

The plot started rather slowly with the period details overshadowing the few clues Sam got.  But as the book got going, things picked up in this department, too.  There were several nice clues and red herrings before an ending I never would have figured out without Sam's help.

Ed Gorman has written plenty of mysteries, and it shows.  The writing is confident and clean.

So, will I take another trip in my time machine to visit Sam McCain?  You'd better believe it.  If Wake Up Little Susie is any indication, I'll be making quite a few of them, in fact.  (Now, can the title song please stop running through my head?)

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