LARRY KARP – The Midnight Special.

Worldwide; reprint paperback, August 2002. Hardcover edition: Write Way, March 2001.

LARRY KARP Midnight Special

   This is the third in a series of Dr. Thomas Purdue’s mystery adventures, and the first that I’ve read. He’s a medical doctor, but the criminal element in the stories doesn’t enter in from that end of things, as you might immediately suspect, but from his passion for the collecting and repairing of antique music boxes, which also seems to make cash registers start ringing in the minds of some rather nasty people. (It’s also a lot more interesting than hospital misbehavior, or at least it is to me.)

   His wife Sarah, as wives are generally supposed to be, is barely tolerant of both the collecting and the murder cases in which he seems to find himself involved. The rest of his circle of friends are either dealers, craftsmen or fellow collectors — all of whose idiosyncrasies are guaranteed to give mystery fans a nice warm, comfortable glow inside, as they identify more and more with their own personal obsessions as the book goes on.

   This particular case centers around a valuable, perhaps one-of-a-kind six-cylinder plerodienique-revolver box, circa 1875, and no, I had no idea what that might have been before I read this book. (But see the cover of the hardcover edition below.) Nor did I follow all of the details of the various machinations the thieves, con men and killers in this book went to in order to obtain it.

LARRY KARP Midnight Special

   What I found more interesting, I have to admit, were Dr. Purdue’s attempts to deal simultaneously with his friend Emma’s depression, resulting from a dehabilitating stroke, and the rehabilitation of his newly found assistant Jitters, whom he meets for the first time while the latter is attempting a daring skylight break-in at the doctor’s apartment.

   Purdue’s joyous approach to life is at once enjoyable, contagious and fun to read, which makes the dark clouds stand out in all the more as rolling in they come, inevitably, or so it seems. Not a prize-winner by any standard, I suppose, but all in all, nicely done.

— October 2002 (revised)

   Bibliographic data:   [mystery fiction only]

      The Music Box Mystery series:

The Music Box Murders. Write Way, 1999; Worldwide, 2000.
Scamming the Birdman. Write Way, 2000; Worldwide, 2001.
The Midnight Special. Write Way, 2001; Worldwide 2002.

      The Ragtime Mystery series:

The Ragtime Kid. Poisoned Pen Press, 2006; trade PB: 2008.

LARRY KARP Ragtime Kid

The King of Ragtime. Poisoned Pen Press, 2008.
Book 3, forthcoming.

   *** For a complete list of this week’s Forgotten Books, go here on Patti Abbott’s blog.