What we've been reading lately

Welcome to the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association redesigned Killer Books page. Below, you will find selections from members' blogs and webpages that post mystery reviews. If you've read the book discussed, or would like to, we welcome your comments.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tribulations of a Shortcut Man

Reviewed by Barbara Tom, Murder by the Book, Portland, OR, www.mbtb.com:



Tribulations of a Shortcut Man, by P. G. Sturges
Scribner, ISBN-13 978-1439194218

I loved this book! P. G. Sturges has created an original character. He also sports an original style, with an intoxicating mixture of gladness, badness and sadness. Bonus: The chapters have titles! This is the follow-up to The Shortcut Man ($15) but stands alone quite well.

Dick Henry is a fix-it man in L.A. for people with problems, and we're not talking a leaky sink or an overgrown hedge. He gets his clients to their desired ends, not all of which are legitimate, by bypassing normal methods and channels, thus creating a shortcut. That's all right, Dick Henry is not quite legitimate, nor is the odd bunch of people who helps him. Among his colorful associates, I'm most fond of the world's stinkiest man. I will say no more. You will enjoy meeting him and finding out how he fits into Dick's world.

Here's Sturges introducing his Shortcut Man:

The thing was thing: Kiyoko [estranged girlfriend] believed all human suffering sprang from the denial of death. That denial took the form of greed, anger, and foolishness. And I agreed. Hell, I couldn't agree more. But before everybody wised up there'd be problems here and there. That's my line. My name's Dick Henry. They call me the Shortcut Man.

All is not raucous and irreverent humor, however. There are poignant moments as well, and they mostly have to do with Dick's children and an old girlfriend, perhaps the one true love of his life.

The majority of the story is concerned with the problems of Judge Harry Glidden and his TV star wife, Ellen. They are in a financial pickle and their solutions involve, willingly or un-, Dick Henry. They were the highest of the high and now they are on the verge of becoming the lowest of the low. Once catered to and fawned over, soon Harry and Ellen will be lucky to own a hotplate. Their plans to remedy their situation are incredibly stupid and hilarious. Let's just say that Mensa won't be knocking down their door.

One more funny tidbit from the book. At one point, Dick must pretend to be a gas repairman, and he uses the name "Dave." His cohort forgets and calls him "Dick," so he is henceforth forced to use the name "Dick-Dave."

So some of the book is first-person Dick Henry narrative and some of it is third-person, the latter mostly used to follow the increasingly unsteady footsteps of Ellen Glidden. Sturges writes well from both viewpoints.  

Here's one last bit to give you a taste of what's in store:

Kiyoko [although my two quoted passages star Kiyoko, she really isn't in the book] was on my mind. My on-and-off girlfriend, Kiyoko was a Buddhist who hadn't yet come to appreciate my line of work. Last night, to the accompaniment of Japanese imprecations, she'd thrown me out of her house. It didn't help that I'd laughed at her insults. I couldn't help it. I understood only a few words of Japanese. Forku, steaku, porku, elephanto. Americanized additions to the language. Not the words she had chosen from the other side of the kitchen island. So I laughed, hoping to bluff my way through; a sitcom, a new take on the Odd Couple.

You. Must. Read. This.


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