Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 17, 2020


Dark Entry by Basil Copper (1981)

This is the eighth Mike Faraday mystery by Basil Copper that I have read this year so, yes, I am a fan.  Copper wrote over 50 novels about the L.A. private investigator.  I've read not quite half of them.  There's plenty for me to look forward to.

The blurbs on just about every book in the series that I have read call Faraday "the laconic L.A. private investigator."  I don't know who came up with that adjective and I surely don't know why.  Laconic describes a person who uses very few words and, since the books are told in the first person and are heavy on description, that doesn't really apply, although Faraday sometimes does speak in terse sentences.  No matter.

Faraday is in his early 30s and employs only one other person -- his beautiful, ultra-efficient secretary Stella.  Stella's main role is to make coffee, lots of it, and bring out a tin of biscuits.  The author was British and his fictional L.A. native character talks, writes, and speaks in the British idiom; thus cookies are biscuits.  Faraday's favorite cookies biscuits are butter crunch chocolate.)  Faraday will go through six to eight cups before noon (and never have to pee); the coffee supposedly helps him think but I don't think it quite does the job.  Faraday, you see, is a bit of a dim bulb, conveniently missing connections and clues to further the action.  Most of the bright ideas and leads seem to come from Stella.

Faraday also has a few quirks in his narration.  Several times through each book he interrupts the narrative thread to talk to himself (usually mid-paragraph) with such gems like, "You're too poetic, Mike, I told myself" or "You're getting soft, Faraday, I told myself."  Also, Faraday is presented as a low-culture, often crude character but will occasionally make references to classic poetry, art, literature, politics, or history -- all of which can be jarring for the reader. 

Faraday's cases can be solved by coincidence or by deduction (usually aided by Stella).  the deductions often come after the clues keep smacking Faraday on the head multiple times before our hero has a glimmer.

Speaking of smacking Faraday on the head, he's apt to get beat up a lot.  For a pretty mean fighter he clocks in a significant amount of losses.

So why do I like these darned books?  Well, each takes itself very seriously but the reader doesn't have to.  They are just plain fun.  Quick, easy, often forgettable entertainment where each book tends to blend into the other.  Comfort food, like your mother's mac and cheese or tuna sandwiches.

Also Copper is a pretty good writer.  The Faraday series was fairly popular in England.  In America, Copper is better known as a writer of horror and suspense stories, often with a Gothic twist.  His non-Faraday work has deservedly garnered quite a number of fans.

On to the book:

Faraday is hired by the head of a large electronics firm to investigate the accidental drowning death of his nephew.  The nephew was sort of a neer-do-well, heavily into gambling and sex.  Shortly before his death, he called his uncle and indicated that he was in some sort of trouble.  Faraday's client has a large beach house, named Wetona (why?  who cares?) in an exclusive area and the nephew often stayed there.  A few miles down the shore, there was a small, fly speck of a town where the body washed up.  The death certificate indicated no foul play.

Farday heads out to the fly speck town of Simpson's landing.  The body was discovered by Dad Harper, the owner of the appropriately named Dad Harper's restaurant.  The local sheriff was unavailable so a couple of state troopers investigated.  A fancy L.A. doctor happened to be driving by and stopped to see if he could be of assistance.  Sure, the cops said.  Why don't you do the autopsy right here, right now so we can get that pesky piece of official  business out of the way?  Sure, said the doctor, and he did the autopsy and determined death was from accidental drowning.  Does that scenario raise a few red flags for our hero?  Well, not yet.

Then it turns out that the doctor who signed the death certificate and did the autopsy was actually in europe at the time -- which seems a mite suspicious.  Then Faraday catches a mysterious figure digging holes in the sand around Wetona during the night.  The mystery person kicks sand in Faraday's eyes and escapes, leaving about a half dozen holes around the property.   Faraday spots an arrow painted on one of the concrete pilings holding up the house, digs there, and finds a metal tool box that contains an expensive women's purse.  Hmm.  Embroidered on the purse are the initials S.D.  (Faraday of course held off opening the toll box for a day just because.)  The Stella tells him that the famous actress Susan Darrow has been reported missing.  So?  The Stella tells him that Susan Darrow's initials are S.D. and slowly the light begins to come on.

And there's a beautiful six foot beauty and a cute little waitress and they're both impressed with Faraday.

Things wrap up  nicely with a deus ex machina rescue and Faraday and Stella celebrate a large fee over coffee and cookies biscuits.

It may sound all pretty silly, but I am addicted.  You might be also.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.