Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Smoke" by Stanley Wheeler

This was an amusing and entertaining mystery.  It's kind of a send-up of hardboiled detective fiction like the stuff written by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.  Set in the late 1940s, its main character is a WWII vet.  He's also a bookstore owner, which is always a fun profession for a book character.  

For reasons I've forgotten, a woman who wanders into his store one day mistakes him for a slightly famous detective who died recently.  She's beautiful, so he pretends to be that detective, rather like Bob Hope's character in My Favorite Brunette (1947).  Her husband has been murdered, and the bookstore owner is so entranced by her eyes that he can't remember her real name or any reasons why he shouldn't try to solve the mystery.  Reasons like the fact that he doesn't have a detective license, has never solved a mystery, and doesn't carry a gun.  But he does like to carry random books around with him -- he gleans helpful advice from them, which I found quite funny. 

The story spins on a little longer than it needs to, and after a while, the stream of snappy retorts and cute metaphors gets a little tired.  But the ending is satisfying and leaves open the possibility for a sequel or a series.

Particularly Good Bits:

I've never cared for kisses on the cheek.  That's the sort of thing you expect from a parent, a sister, or an aunt with bad teeth.  It's about as satisfying as pouring whiskey into your sock.

The road had more curves than a pinup girl.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for a lot of kissing and embracing.  An extra-marital affair is a plot point.  There's some shooting and punching, and quite a bit of tobacco and alcohol use.


  1. Love the quotes, seems like a fun read.

    1. Skye, yeah, it was a good summer book for reading in the car while on vacation!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and to review. I appreciate your comments. Glad you found some quotes to enjoy. I've warned my friends from church who read it that it contains lots of kissing and smoking. I felt the genre called for it...and the title.

    1. You're welcome, Stanley! I actually highlighted several other things in the book -- it definitely amused me.

      For the genre, it was pretty tame. A nice throwback!


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