Author: Renée Pawlish
Author: Renée Pawlish
There is little doubt that Indie Author Renée Pawlish is a promising new voice to the comic murder/mystery genre which is very much in evidence with her recent novel This Doesn't Happen In the Movies: A Reed Ferguson Mystery.
What we have here is a humorous journey into thriller territory that is jump started when our protagonist, private investigator Reed Ferguson takes on his first case concerning a missing husband whom his wife, Amanda Ghering presumes to be dead. Ferguson's immediate gut feeling about Amanda is that she is bad news and although enamored with her sexy looks and depicting her as someone having a smile that would slay Adonis, he is forced to control himself from being lured into a liaison with his first client.
Ferguson hasn't any private investigator experience and basically his modus operandi and inspiration stem from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall movies. He is immediately aghast when Amanda concedes that she was going to have her husband Peter killed for the five million dollars in insurance monies, the inheritance and the freedom from their travesty of a marriage involving a husband who was an incessant womanizer. What seems to be preposterous and nonsensical is that Ferguson was now charged with the task of tracking down a presumably dead husband, whom his wife wanted to kill, but denies that she did in fact kill him, and now that he is gone, she wants him back. Sounds quite ridiculous and as Ferguson says to himself, “I should've run, right then. I should've, but I didn't.” But then again, if he did run away, there wouldn't be a story to tell!
As the yarn unfolds, we notice Pawlish's uncanny ability to play with her readers sending them on all kinds of chases as she introduces several red herrings. We learn from Amanda, who initially is not exactly forthcoming, that she did in fact hire a secret vigilante group referred to as “X Women” to kill her husband, however it seems they never did carry out their mandate. Now Amanda not only wants to know what happened to her husband, but she also fears for her own life, as she believes the group is after her. What is startling about all of these revelations is that the “X Women” are in the business of being contacted by women that have been abused, wronged or have even experienced the murder of a loved one and that they are now seeking revenge. They think nothing of having the male culprit knocked off. The difficulty now faced by Ferguson is finding out who are these “X Women” and how to contact them. To top matters off, little does he realize that the FBI is likewise determined to chase the group down and bring them to justice and they are not exactly elated that he is involved. In fact, he is warned to stay away from Amanda and to drop the case. And if this isn't enough, the “X Women,” having learned of Ferguson's involvement, have likewise expressly ordered him to back off and they have even gone so far as giving him a good thrashing. Nonetheless, even though our protagonist has been lied to by the woman who hired him, knocked over the head, nearly run off the road, spied on by the FBI, and has put his family and friends in danger, he still refuses to give up and continues to use his hero Bogart as his inspiration.
Quite noticeable in this novel is Pawlish's adept development of the plot coupled with her ability to contrive clear, concise and playful prose with almost perfect pacing. All of this has led to the structuring of a yarn with a heady blend of suspense and occasional cock-eyed humor, as well as a protagonist that in French we would describe as being “très sympa” or cool. In addition, her oddball secondary characters are a sheer delight with their bumbling actions and amusing dialogue. And although by midpoint of the book the story's outcome is of little consequence, it is the strength of the writing that keeps the reader going until the conclusion.
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