LAWRENCE KINSLEY – The Red-Light Victim. Tower, paperback original, 1981.

   The title and the cover design (multiple shots of a half-nude dancer) are a trifle misleading. Yes, I know that in the world of paperback promotion this is hardly anything new, but here the publisher had a glorious opportunity to cash in on the anti-nuclear movement that’s sweeping the country, and what do they pick out as the essential ingredient in this book instead? Sex, that’s what. Can you dig it?

   Jason O’Neil is the hero, a Boston-based private eye who’s hired by his former girl friend’s roommate to find her. She’s a physics major and a top student at B. U., and she’s suddenly disappeared. The trail leads O’Neil to the Combat Zone all right, but only briefly. (But long enough for the cover shots to be taken, right?)

   Jennifer (that’s her name) was also a high echelon member of the campus anti-nuclear organization, which, mixed with a little Cosa Nostra involvement, happens to be enough to fill out the rest of the book, with a long ways to go. It seems the group plans to … but that’s for you to read and find out, isn’t it?

   As a mystery, the book rambles on for too long (over 300 pages), but its tone, wholly pessimistic about the age of the atom, is probably more effective in its purpose than a truckload of slogan-spouting rock stars, movie actresses. and other uninformed but self-proclaimed experts.

   Nevertheless, and all social significance aside, the characters are vividly drawn, and the detective work is effective enough to suggest that Jason O’Neil is worthy of an encore. You’ll have to give him some time, though. He was pretty emotionally wrapped up in this one.

Rating:  B minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1981 (slightly revised).


Bibliographic Note:   Not only was this Jason O’Neil’s solo appearance in print, it is also the author’s only entry in Al Hubin’s bibliography of crime fiction.