ARTHUR LYONS – The Dead Are Discreet. Jacob Asch #1. Mason & Lipscomb, hardcover, 1974. Ballantine, paperback, 1976. Henry Holt & Co, paperback, 1983.

   If you’ve read as many PI novels as either you or I have, you know without my telling you that there are very few plots to match up numberwise with all of the PI novels that have been written over the years. So when I tell you that in the first appearance of PI Jacob Asch in a detective novels he is hired by a lawyer whose client is accused of murdering his wife and her lover when he unexpectedly walks in on them, you may be reminded of the current TV series of The Lincoln Lawyer, in which, guess what? Mickey Haller inherits another lawyer’s caseload after he’s murdered, and the big one he’s tasked with has to do with a client who…

   And of course a good defense in such situations is to find someone who wanted the lover dead, not the wife. Bingo, right again. Not that that’s the case in either book or TV show, but it does provide for a lot more story to tell.

   There are variations on this. What’s different about this one is that the wife is into matters of the occult, hence the cover of the paperback edition, and so there’s that angle to be investigated, and it doesn’t matter one bit that the setting is Los Angeles, primarily Hollywood, although the movie-making aspect of one of the town’s major industries isn’t really a factor.

   I didn’t realize it while I was reading it, but as it so happens, it was a re-read. I’d read this one before. That’s not a fact that matters much, but in my review of Castle Burning, the fifth book in the series and reviewed here, I mentioned I didn’t care for this one and that I had given it a “D”. I haven’t come across the full review from back then, but sad to say, I wouldn’t rank much higher this time around either.

   Lyons’ writing style is smooth enough and doesn’t call attention to itself, which is a good thing, and he knows his way around even the seediest parts of town, but I don’t get the sense that he’s as hardboiled as he wants to be.  I’m also always unhappy when a detective in a detective story doesn’t do any detecting. Asch, in this case, at least, simply goes with his gut feeling. Sorry, my friend, that’s simply not good enough. Not for me, it isn’t.