Tuesday, August 23, 2011

49. Virginia's Thing by Henry Woodfin

Picked this up for a buck during our vacation in Nova Scotia, though I can't remember exactly which book store. Maybe the one in Lunenburg? You can see by the cover why I picked it up. I'm always interested in portrayals of the '60s in crime fiction. I love the crazy naîveté of the period, especially juxtaposed against the hard reality of the investigator.

The book is much calmer and less over the top than the blurb on the back suggests. It's a basic detective story, starting with a job. The sensible and independent daughter of a union boss has been missing for two weeks. He wants her found as quietly as possible as he is participating in a tight election. The job sends the detective to the campus of the state university, where he encounters the diverse society that is the intellectual left, focusing especially on a professor couple. Slowly, we learn more about the girl and more about the people around her.

It's interesting and engaging, but we don't learn anything that helps us with what actually happened to her until quite near the end. So the mystery itself seems a bit rushed when it gets wrapped up. The emotional impact doesn't though, and the message of this book is pretty establishment all the way, though in a sensible, quiet sort of way. The academics with their extreme, absolutist views, are made to look obsessed, weak, soulless and basically evil. At the same time, there is a certain sympathy for the more sensible liberal elements (interracial marriage is strongly approved of). Though it's a savage portrayal, the author suggests that living with their own conscience is punishment enough for their sins. All in all, it's that kindler, gentler conservatism from folks who fought in the war. I wish we had more of that around today.

 Other than the pacing of the mystery itself, this was quite a good read. I was caught up in the characters and felt a certain bit of satisfaction with the way it all concluded. I can't find a single other book by this author. It was from Pyramid books, who bothered to credit the cover artist (D. Greene - I wonder what Louis XIV knows?)

1 comment:

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Could be Darrel Greene...?