THE DUTCH by Les Roberts
Milan Jacovich is an old style detective in Cleveland. Ellen Carnine was a singularly homely woman who seemed, nonetheless, to have been perfectly happy. So why did she do The Dutch (police slang for suicide)? When Ellen's distraught father comes to him and asks Jacovich to find out why his daughter committed suicide, it doesn't seem like too much trouble. Of course, there isn't much of a mystery in that simple story and soon Jacovich discovers that the apparent suicide is actually murder.
The author also takes an interesting philosophical look at the role that appearance plays in American women's lives as well as the desperate measures that lonely people are driven to in this day of internet chat rooms. Roberts does an excellent job of discussing distasteful subjects such as pornography, on-line sex, and more without making the reader dive into sordid details.
Interestingly, Amazon reader reviews kept mentioning a shocking plot twist which I, in my infinite mystery reading jadedness, thought could not possibly be that shocking. Wrong. Luckily I was skimming the page when that plot point was revealed, thinking that I probably didn't want indepth information about that particular bit (the only part of the book like that I might add). But the twist was truly shocking.
Not only does Roberts weave a fascinating mystery, but Jacovich is an honest and interesting character who loves Cleveland, justice, his sons. He has just enough ties to mob bosses to get him the information he needs and the trouble that he doesn't. Milan Jacovich reminds me to some degree to another of my favorite detective characters, Spenser (before Robert Parker pounded his formula into the ground). I especially like his inherent respect for each person and the way he views each as having value, even if that person happens to be a hooker without any apparent heart of gold.
I never thought about Cleveland much one way or the other but I found myself picturing some of the classic Kansas City downtown buildings as Roberts fondly describes this Midwestern city. That may not be too interesting if you don't have Midwestern ties but it certainly sets a complete scene if nothing else.
Roberts' books do not seem to stay in print long and, as I discovered when dropping by Half Price Books, people must be hanging onto them because they aren't being recycled. Luckily the library has a fair number and I hope to catch up on Jacovich's earlier adventures.
This is #6 of books read in 2006.