Harry Lipkin, P.I. by Barry Fantoni
Barry Fantoni is a veteran contributor to Private Eye (the magazine), and this book is about a Private Eye (the actual job). Harry Lipkin P.I is a detective in Miami, and eighty seven years old, ‘going on eighty-eight’. Fantoni, who, it seems important to add, is 72, doesn’t make Harry old as a source of cheap gags, he does it to add a slight and often humorous twist to the detective genre.
The book is written in a way that’s reminiscent of the classic Raymond Chandler/Dashiel Hammet type of noir, with a constant awareness of Harry’s age nicely deflating the familiar rhetoric: “I ordered a bonded Scotch neat and made myself comfortable. I didn’t want a bonded Scotch. A lemon tea would have been a whole lot more welcome. But lemon tea at the ringside? It’s like The Fastest Gun In The West asking the barman for milk”. So the first person narrative allows humour to come from Harry, rather than being at his expense. This works very well, and the story – about a jewel theft – is nicely told, and very readable. The plot falls apart at the end – typical noir – but, also typically, the atmosphere always holds up. [Keir Hind]