Bill Bryson was telling us something about small town America at the start of The Lost Continent when he wrote "I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." Justin Scott, in placing his BEN ABBOTT P.I. series in Newbury, Conneticutt, is probably trying to tell us something about small town America -- it's just that I'm not sure what it is.
It's a sweet place, like Bedford Falls in "It's A Wonderful Life". Our hero, for example, is introduced to us in Frost Line (1997) rescuing a cat up a tree. It's friendly in that "I've known you for five generations" kind of way and the town folk are, well, town folk. The place is something of a patch work quilt. It's no surprise that the somewhat conventional murder mystery plots fit together in neat little pieces as well. Wrong doing is delt with, order is restored, the good guys are good and the bad guy's don't belong.
In fairness though, I must add that this is a series PI and I guess if you're already hooked you'll love it. And despite the small town trappings, this guy Ben's been around. Once upon a time, Ben (actually Benjamin Abbot III) was an investigator for U.S. Naval Intelligence and then a Wall Street bond trader who, alas, got caught bending the rules a little too much, and ended up serving time for insider dealing, Upon his release he ended up selling real estate in Newbury, before events in his debut, Hardscape (1994) lead to his new career as a private eye. The writing is very good although people tell me Scott has done better work (notably Widow of Desire, about the Russian fur trade/spy/thriller).
Just to be neighbourly, I direct you to comments on the cover of Frost Line, from Lawrence Block that this "...is the best book in a series that started strong and keeps getting better" and Jeffery Deaver about the "brilliant--sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-wrenching insights into small town New England life". No slouches Block and Deaver. Therefore, if you feel so inclined, please take no notice of me whatsoever...
Contributed by Peter Walker, adapted from a review in Crime Time (and Peter wants everyone to know, by the way, that he's available for lucrative assignments in the world of crime writing and criticism....)
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