Sun 19 Dec 2010
ARTHUR LYONS – False Pretenses. Jacob Asch #11. Mysterious Press, hardcover, January 1994; reprint paperback, March 1995.
Arthur Lyons has been writing about Jacob Asch for 20 years now, which makes him one of the elder statesman among hardboiled PI writers still writing. Most would grant him a place in the top ten, and some higher.
Asch is feeling middle-aged about it all lately, and has been reduced lately to certifying incompetents for conservatorships, so he welcomes the chance to follow a wife for a man who is suspicious of her. She does nothing off-key, but when he returns to his office he finds the husband dead in the chair behind his desk, his brains splattered all over the wall.
He wasn’t who he said he was and neither was she, Asch finds as he begins to try to sort out what and why. While doing this he meets a statuesque LAPD Lieutenant, and this gives rise (pun intentional) to more complications.
Lyons does the usual competent job of telling his first-person story, with minimum description and terse, no-frills prose. Asch is a bit more active sexually than I remember from past books, but otherwise is the same old lone wolf PI driving LA’s mean streets.
It would have been a good, though not exceptional book but for one thing: the plot. To give it the necessary surprise ending, Lyons has Asch make an intuitive connection that is utterly without foundation, and from there comes up with an explanation that I didn’t believe, and that was built wholly in the last 90 or so pages. It turned an average book into one I disliked. First Valin, now Lyons. [Darn.]
Previously on this blog:
Death Noted: ARTHUR LYONS (1946-2008). Includes a complete bibliography, with many cover images.
Movie Review – SLOW BURN (1986). Made for Cable TV film based on Castles Burning. (Review by Steve Lewis.)
Editorial Comment: This is the first time I’ve edited one of Barry’s reviews for this blog. The original final sentence seems to have referred to an ongoing apazine discussion of the “death of the PI novel,” but I couldn’t find the exact reference, nor I could I have repeated the entire conversation even if I had. So I replaced it by a single word [in brackets] which I hope expresses Barry’s displeasure at being disappointed by two of his favorite authors.
For what it’s worth, and you can read into this whatever you wish, False Pretenses was the last of eleven books in Arthur Lyons’ Jacob Asch series.