My Darling Detective

My Darling Detective

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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A witty, engrossing homage to noir from National Book Award finalist Howard Norman

Jacob Rigolet, a soon-to-be former assistant to a wealthy art collector, looks up from his seat at an auction--his mother, former head librarian at the Halifax Free Library, is walking almost casually up the aisle. Before a stunned audience, she flings an open jar of black ink at master photographer Robert Capa's "Death on a Leipzig Balcony." Jacob's police detective fianc#65533;e, Martha Crauchet, is assigned to the ensuing interrogation. In My Darling Detective , Howard Norman delivers adelivers a fond nod to classic noir, as Jacob's understanding of the man he has always assumed to be his father unravels against the darker truth of Robert Emil, a Halifax police officer suspected but never convicted of murdering two Jewish residents during the shocking upswing of anti-Semitism in 1945. The denouement, involving a dire shootout and an emergency delivery--it's the second Rigolet to be born in the Halifax Free Library in a span of three decades--is Howard Norman at his "provocative . . . haunting"* and uncannily moving best.
*Janet Maslin, New York Times
Publisher: New York, NY : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [2017]
ISBN: 9780544236103
0544236106
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 245 pages ; 22 cm

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l
llwboston
Oct 14, 2017

Howard Norman's novels always offer an unusual premise and off-beat characters. With "My Darling Detective" set in 1970s Halifax, this is most entertainingly realized in the sweet, quirky relationship between library science student Jacob and police detective Martha. Their romance is enhanced by listening to broadcasts of a 1940s detective radio series. The central plot revolves around Jacob's mother Nora, a former Halifax librarian currently hospitalized for mental health reasons, and her possible connection to the suspect in a crime Martha is investigating. Martha befriends Nora and through her Jacob learns that what he thought he knew about his mother's life has been all wrong. I did not find the noir aspect of the plot to be especially effective, and was somewhat dismayed that Jacob (who is the narrator) maintains a distance from his mother's distress; leaving the female characters to do the heavy emotional lifting. I found myself thinking the book would have been more interesting with Martha as narrator, rather than Jacob. And this relatively short novel is packed with subplots that veer in many different directions without enhancing the main story.

e
exie3
Jul 14, 2017

Don't waste your time.

h
herpwop1
Apr 18, 2017

This is 4.5 stars. An interesting, unusual story that incorporates elements of crime noir with an interesting backstory from WWII. Norman's writing is spare but effective with humor and pathos along the way. I especially enjoyed the two detective partners of Martha and their witty repartee, even laughing out loud at times. But there is a serious tone to the writing too. Norman manages to incorporate art history, library science, crime work and antisemitism into this page turner. I will definitely be reading more of his works. Highly recommended!

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