JONATHAN VALIN – Final Notice. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1980. Paperback reprints: Avon, 1982; Dell, 1994. TV movie: USA, 1989 (with Gil Gerard, Steve Landsberg, Melody Anderson).

   I’m a little behind. This is the second adventure of private eye Harry Stoner — it’s just now in paperback — and the third is already out, begging to be read.


   The metaphor is apt. If anything, I found this one even more readable than The Lime Pit, which started to get more and more funny-tasting the deeper Stoner began to dig into the corruption surrounding the city of Cincinnati.

   There is more of the same in this one, plus lots of gore. Stoner is called in when a psychopath starts slashing up nudes in a library’s collection of art books. He thinks it’s only a prelude to the real thing.

   At his side in tackling this case is a library security guard named Kate Davis, who is both female and liberated. She makes Stoner feels old and tired at thirty-seven, old-fashioned and chauvinistic. Kate is of a younger generation, and falling in love with her leaves Stoner feeling slightly bewildered. He is also pleased.

   Valin has a fine feeling for what makes people what they are — not just the killer, but everyone. The constant attempts to psychoanalyze the killer could have been downplayed a little, and Valin doesn’t quite catch the same edge that exists between human relationships that Robert B. Parker usually does, but as a mixture of character study and action adventure, it is seldom done any better than this.

   The fast and furious climax works out almost the way you’d expect it to, but the twist that comes with it just might catch you leaning the wrong way.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 2, March/April 1982
            (slightly revised).


[UPDATE] 10-27-09. Jonathan Valin wrote eleven Harry Stoner books over a period of 15 years, which is a pretty good run, but one I think should have been longer. I confess, though, that while I have all of the books in the series, I’ve never gotten around to the later ones. (I believe I’ve read all of the first seven.)

   But as to why the series ended, the usual guesses are as valid here as they are for many other authors. Sales may have fallen and/or Valin simply ran out of things to say about the character.

   Until I discovered it again just now, I’d totally forgotten that there was a TV movie based on this book. What’s strange is that I simply don’t remember if I watched it at the time or not. It’s not available on DVD, as far as I’ve been able to tell, so I just bought it as an out-of-print video tape. The reviews on IMDB (only 2 of them) aren’t very positive. The big complaint is that it was filmed in Toronto, not Cincinnati!

       The Harry Stoner series

    1. The Lime Pit (1980)
    2. Final Notice (1980)
    3. Dead Letter (1981)


    4. Day of Wrath (1982)
    5. Natural Causes (1983)
    6. Life’s Work (1986)
    7. Fire Lake (1987)


    8. Extenuating Circumstances (1989)
    9. Second Chance (1991)
   10. The Music Lovers (1993)
   11. Missing (1995)