Authors: Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton
Publisher: Krill Press
ISBN: 978-0-9821443-3-6

Click Here To Purchase The Big Grabowski

The mystery genre has bifurcated into at least two main subgenres.  The violent crime in the traditional mysteries of Agatha Christie and P. D. James has become the essential ingredient of the mysteries of David Baldacci, Jeffery Deaver, or James Patterson.  The tongue-in-cheek critique of high society’s greed and jealousy in those British authors’ work has led to books like Carl Hiaasen’s.  I’m not sure the mystery genre is the better for this bifurcation, but it seems we can no longer say it is a temporary phenomenon.

The Big Grabowski is a funny and entertaining mystery in the second category.  It has the local color and humor of a Carl Hiaasen novel, a list of suspects with behaviors that run the gamut of human nature unlike Christie’s prim and proper Brits, and an ambitious sleuth/reporter that only wants to get out of town as rapidly as possible, as unlike Mrs. Marple as one can imagine.  The town is Devil’s Harbor, Oregon, where the unscrupulous land developer, Vince Grabowski, has just been murdered.  The sleuth is Molly Donovan, famous first queen of the town’s Whirligig Festival and temporary reporter and newspaper deliverer of the local rag, The North Coast Flotsam.

Molly left her job in Albuquerque to be with her father while he recuperates from a heart attack.  Her father, Mike Donovan, is a crusty old salt (at least we would call him that here in New England) that becomes the prime suspect in the case.  So Molly is doubly motivated to find the real murderer—to clear her father and to get the story.  She encounters a number of obstacles along the way together with a couple of suitors that she rejects on a number of occasions.

One of the obstacles is Old Air Biscuit, the flatulent humpback whale.  In other words, the tail of the whale is part of the tale.  This enforces my thesis that this novel is more a comedy of airs (pun intended) than a sedate Agatha-like mystery.  It is Columbo/Monk/Psychic on the printed page.

Some readers might think that Oregon is just a placeholder between San Francisco and Seattle.  They’re missing an essential part of Americana.  If one ignores the invasion by smog-, fog-, and traffic-weary Californians in recent years, there are some really nice cities.  Moreover, there is a calmness and quaintness to the seacoast towns that remind one of Carmel back in the fifties.  The locals have the western version of down eastern charm.  Life there is not the everyday rush to go nowhere fast.  The authors have captured some of this flavor in their novel.    

As a consequence, for those of us that grew up in small towns like Devil’s Harbor (my home town isn’t small anymore, but it was when I was growing up), this book is also a nostalgia trip.  The importance of the county sheriff, however, distinguishes the East Coast’s nostalgia from the West Coast’s.  In the Northeast sheriffs are largely redundant caricatures of real cops.  Out West they are necessary caricatures of Wyatt Earp, often keeping the peace in vast areas of many square miles where cities and city cops are scarce. 

Disturbing the Peace, by P. D. LaFleur, reviewed previously by yours truly for BookPleasures, had a more serious sheriff as a main character; the sheriff and his deputy in The Big Grabowski only serve as a foil to Molly.  But I like the contrast between the Western sheriff (yes, I know, LaFleur’s sheriff lived in Florida, but it’s the closest thing on the East Coast to California) and big city cop.  It’s nice to know that one can find a mystery story to be told in so many different places in our diverse country.

This novel pokes fun at quite a few sectors of our society.  If this bothers you as a member of one of those sectors or otherwise, then don’t read this book.  Otherwise, you’ll get your money’s worth of chuckles while enjoying a fast-paced modern mystery. 

The Big Grabowski is subtitled A Devil’s Harbor Mystery.  Hopefully this means that there will be more in the series.  I recommend this one for your spring reading, or even to accompany your Irish coffee when the nor’easter is raging outside.  Enjoy it.  I did.

 Click Here To Purchase The Big Grabowski