Mysterious Book Report Last LooksLast Looks by Howard Michael Gould

Dutton/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 291 pages, ISBN 978-1-524-74249-2

According to the Collins Unabridged Dictionary and Synonym Finder of the English Language, the word quirky is defined thus: “peculiarly individual or unconventional.”  It’s synonyms are: “odd, unusual, eccentric,” and well, you get the gist.  We mention this only because this week’s MBR No. 364 will introduce all of our readers to one of the most unusual detectives to come prancing down the literary pike since Sherlock Holmes beat his first corpse with a stick in A Study in Scarlet. And, what better place to find the peculiar, odd and unconventional than Burbank, California . . . the land of make-believe.

Last Looks, by Howard Michael Gould, is a smart, funny and compelling, tongue-in-cheek look at some of the foibles of modern society in general and a few of the absurdities of life in southern California in particular. They’re seen though the actions of Charlie Waldo, a reluctant PI who’s on a personal mission to help save the planet by not owning more than one hundred items and reducing his carbon footprint to as close to zero as possible.  He lives an ascetic lifestyle, alone on a mountain top to punish himself for mishandling a case when he was a star detective with the LAPD.  Charlie’s lonesome, spartan life gets uprooted however, when he’s visited in quick succession by an old flame, an old LAPD antagonist, and last, by some thugs. Next thing he knows, Charlie’s back in LA, working to ascertain the guilt or innocence of an actor named Alastair Pinch, who’s suspected in the beating death of his wife.  Trouble is, the brilliant Shakespearian actor is a nasty alcoholic, who was blackout drunk on the night of the murder and has no idea if he did or did not kill his wife . . . who was agitating for them to return to England.  But Alastair’s making w-a-a-ay too much money, playing a hokey southern judge on a sleazy TV show to go back.  It’s an almost impossible case with a whacked-out cast of characters doing everything they can to either jail or exonerate poor Mr. Pinch in this wonderful, hilarious and spot-on debut from a talented author we’ll be hearing a lot more from in the future!

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John Dwaine McKenna

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