A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


A. H. Z. CARR – Finding Maubee. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1971. Bantam, paperback, 1973. British title: The Calypso Murders (Hale, UK, 1973). Film: MGM, 1989, as The Mighty Quinn.

   A. H. Z. Carr’s first and only suspense novel (which won the Best First Novel Edgar for 1971) is a police procedural with an unusual setting: the tropical island of St. Caro in the Caribbean. And even for that part of the world, St. Caro is unusual: It can claim to have “the highest rate of illegitimacy and the lowest rate of crime” of all the islands.

   Illegitimacy on St. Caro carries no special stigma; “outbabies” are usually acknowledged by the fathers. But the young men of this extremely libidinous locale are careful to guard against being saddled with the support of “bushbabies” (those whose paternity is questionable), and thus they keep little black books –sexual diaries.

   Dave Maubee’s little black book is a thick one, and he has managed to sire “two inbabies, six outbabies, and an undetermined number of bushbabies.” It is no wonder he turns to a life of crime — petty theft from tourists — to support these offspring. But when a wealthy tourist, Carl Lattner, is found murdered with a machete at the exclusive Mango Beach Inn, Maubee’s boyhood friend, Police Chief Xavier Brooke, is astonished to hear Dave is the prime suspect. It is his little black book, dropped at the crime scene, that points to him.

   Xavier, a mainland-educated St. Carovian, begins his investigation amid pressures from both the island’s acting governor and a fellow officer who has designs on his job. But despite their insistence on Maubee’s guilt, he finds inconsistencies at the scene and among the stories of the resort’s high-toned but not always high-principled guests.

   When he finally sets out to track down the missing Maubee, his search takes him all over the island to the homes of women Maubee has rated “A+” in his book. In his travels, he finds that his old friend’s life has taken a surprising new turn, and by the time he apprehends him, he is certain the murder is not as straightforward as it originally seemed.

   Carr’s characters are well developed and memorable, and the setting he employs is vivid. Issues such as racial strife, Caribbean politics, and obeah (voodoo) form a backdrop for a solid and intelligent procedural. Unfortunately, Carr (who wrote a number of criminous short stories, as well as other, noncriminous books) died shortly after Finding Maubee‘s publication in 1971, and his Edgar was awarded posthumously. More Xavier Brooke novels would have been enthusiastically welcomed by this reviewer.

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   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.