GREGORY MCDONALD – Fletch. Bobbs-Merrill; hardcover, 1974. Avon, paperback, 1976; reprinted several times. Vintage, pb, 2002. Film: Universal Pictures, 1985. Starring Chevy Chase as Fletch; screenplay: Andrew Bergman.

FLETCH Gregory Mcdonald

   Fletch is a reporter working on a drug story. His role as a beach bum, a drifter with no connections, arouses no suspicions along an insidious stretch of Californla beach, and in fact he is convincing enough to be given an unexpected job interview. An aviation executive with cancer has in mind an acceptable alternative to a long, slow death. He hires Fletch to kill him.

   Maintaining his watch on the beach for the source of the drugs, Fletch also becomes a skeptical undercover investigator. Details fall into place a little too quickly toward the end, but that in no way detracts from a good amount of nimble-tongued inquiry and observation, and the crackling dialogue that zips by as the plot unthickens.

   Fletch’s casually derisive approach to life goes far in preparing for, the final wrap-up, one coming alarmingly close to copping out, but it’s also one that provides a nice amount of chuckling satisfaction as well. A tale told with artistic gusto.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 3, May 1977.

[UPDATE] 10-30-10.   By the time I wrote this review, I assume that I knew that the novel had become the first of a series. There were eleven in all, most of them paperback originals, even though this first one came out in hardcover. I’ve seen only parts of the movie. A little Chevy Case goes a long way for me, but I have a hunch that if Fletch the character is remembered at all today, it’s with Chevy Chase’s face.

   I didn’t include my letter grade with the review itself, but if you’re curious, I gave it an “A.” Thus I was pleased to see that not only did David Vineyard include Fletch in his second grouping of humorous mysteries, but Jeff Meyerson also included it in his list of 100 overall “best” mysteries. It always feels good when people agree with you.