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Caper: A Stanley Hastings Mystery    by Parnell Hall order for
by Parnell Hall
Order:  USA  Can
Pegasus, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Parnell Hall's wisecracking, bumbling, private investigator Stanley Hastings gets played for the fool again in this latest adventure. Unfortunately, the script is wearing thin and Stanley's antics are no longer as funny as they once were.

This time Stanley is asked to find out if a school girl is really moonlighting as a hooker. Her mother fears she is but wants Stanley to find out for sure. When he discovers the teeny-bopper is hanging out with a congressman, it appears mom is right. But actually she isn't! In fact, the client isn't even the girl's mother! Confused? Yup! Well, so is Stanley.

When the congressman turns up dead, Stanley decides to try to figure out who has played him for a chump and, more to the point, perhaps set him up to take a murder rap. Fortunately, someone else is nailed for the killing, although Stan knows the guy could not have done it.

The first person narrative featuring ping-pong ball witty exchanges between three of the principal characters bouncing ideas off one another may move the story along quickly, but it also creates a sense of disjointedness. You aren't sure where this caper is going but then, perhaps, Hall doesn't have a clue either.

At one point one of Stanley's friends tells him, 'You have the thinnest plot threads imaginable. You are weaving them together with wishes.' These sage words also capture what is wrong with this novel. As you near the closing chapters it becomes all too clear that the author is going to have to quickly manufacture something quite incredible (and unbelievable, I might add) to save his story.

The word farce comes to mind when trying to describe this ending. Unfortunately, not only is there little humor here but even the willing suspension of disbelief that authors can count on from their readers doesn't cover this grand finale! It is so implausible that not even the series' steadfast fans will find this to be an acceptable dénouement!

Stanley tells us that 'It seemed to me I had the ingredients in place, I just had to stir the pot'. Well, stir it he did, but I fear he still burned the recipe!

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