TAYLOR McCAFFERTY – Pet Peeves. Haskell Blevins #1. Pocket, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1990.

   I liked the first line. It’s not quite as good as the one l quoted from one of Bill Crider’s books a couple of issues ago, but it sets the tone pretty well, and here it is: “It’s tough being a hard-boiled detective in a small town.” The small town as a case in point being Pigeon Fork, Kentucky, and the PI who is telling the story is Haskell Blevins.

   Unfortunately, Blevins, who resembles Howdy Doody in appearance — all those freckles — is not nearly as hard-boiled a detective as he thinks he is. It is even hard to believe he spent eight years with Homicide in Louisville, as McCafferty pretty much aims for laughs in this, Blevins’ first recorded adventure.

   And she succeeds, for the most part, but unlike Bill Crider’s books, you are laughing at her characters, not with them. I don’t think there is one of the several inhabitants of Pigeon Fork that I would ever come to think of as a friend. There is the inevitable town bully, the town drunk, the town busy-body, the almost senile Grampap, the morose sheriff who resents it when Haskell starts getting threatening notes, while he, the sheriff, never got one, and so on.

   The case itself is the strange murder of Grammy (Grampap’s wife), pets, a cat and a parakeet named Sweety-bird. For all of book’s length (216 pages), there is only one clear-cut clue to the murderer, and that is all that Haskell needs to solve the case. All the rest is fooferaw, hillbilly style. (Amusing fooferaw, but still fooferaw.)

– Slightly revised from Mystery*File 26, December 1990.


      The Haskell Blevins series

1. Pet Peeves (1990)
2. Ruffled Feathers (1992)
3. Bed Bugs (1993)
4. Thin Skins (1994)
5. Hanky Panky (1995)
6. Funny Money (2000)