The Breaking Point by Basil Copper (1973)
Between 1966 and 1988 Basil Copper wrote 56 novels about "the laconic L.A. private investigator"* Mike Faraday. The Breaking Point is the fourteenth book in this series that never seems to change very much. There's always his unattainable blonde secretary and sounding board Stella. Faraday keeps drinking coffee, strong and black -- preferring the java Stella is constantly percolating in his office. Faraday continues making wisecracks to both clients and witnesses that seem to border on the offensive. Faraday is scrupulously honest. Taking a page from the Mike Hammer playbook, Faraday constantly "grins" his way through a case, and (usually at least a dozen times during a case) he talks to himself (most often using his first name), a habit that can become grating. Faraday can get beaten or knocked unconscious but he always comes back with bullets flying. And, since Basil Copper was British, there is no attempt to Americanize Faraday's language: a car's hood is always a bonnet, it's steering wheel always a steering hub, and cookies are always biscuits. The British sentence structure can be off-putting.
That's the glory of Copper's Faraday books. The reader always knows what he's getting -- the novelistic version of comfort food: fast-moving, fast-reading, not too complicated, and somehow satisfying. I've read a number of them over the past few years and can't get enough of them. Luckily I have a dozen more Mike Faraday mysteries lurking in Mount TBR before I have to go searching for more.
In The Breaking Point, a small-time hoodlum named Angelo Firini is pulled out of the bay, stabbed, then dropped in the water to drown. He has Faraday's business card in his pocket with the handwritten words "If anything happens to me you know where to look." The problem is that Faraday had never met Firini and, in fact had not known of him before being contacted by the police. Also on Firini's body was some 8-millimeter film. The film was a bit of explicit porn featuring a very beautiful woman who seems strangely familiar.
Stella recognizes the woman, a top model going by the name of Patricia Carlin. Her real name is Penelope Peploe, a married woman with an unsavory husband who happens not to be her partner in the porn film. Her lover is Lionel Mostyn, a brutish man who, with his gun, had paid an evening threatening visit to Faraday. Two rather unsavory men try to get information that he doesn't have from Faraday, who then tracks Mostyn back to his apartment where a sniper shoots Mostyn. Faraday stumbles across a third corpse dissolving in acid. And then things get complicated.
It's a tangled and deadly web, revolving around the 8-millimeter film, with millions at stake. Bodies and babes litter the landscape resulting in a rather complex solution.
Literature this ain't, but is sure is fun.
Todd Mason has taken the lead on Friday's Forgotten Books from Patti Abbott. Check out today's other Forgotten Books at Todd's always interesting blog Sweet Freedom.
*Well, that's how he is described in the blurbs for many of his adventures. Since the novels are all written in the first person, I'd say Faraday was laconic only in his speech and certainly not in his reporting.