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The Judas Pair, Jonathan Gash, Penguin Crime, 1977, ISBN 0-14-012688-0, $5.95

I finally found the first Lovejoy mystery–not that it is necessary to start reading these wonderful books here, but for the anal retentive like me who must read things in order, it’s dreadfully important. The series starts off wild and wooly, too, quickly establishing both the method of Lovejoy’s madness (an almost insatiable love for antiques) and his obvious mastery and gift for it. It also establishes what is to become the heart of the books, that wise-cracking attitude of Lovejoy’s, direct to the reader, in which he doesn’t hesitate to tell you his and the antiques world’s trade secrets. Lovejoy isn’t afraid to pass this info on because he knows it is of no matter– the public (i.e, the reader, you and me) is still so dumb that even knowing how things work, we’ll still be rubes.

For people whose only experience of Lovejoy is from the A&E series, the books may come as sort of a jolt. While some of the same characters are here, the tone and the interactions are very different (I’m reminded of the difference between Spenser: For Hire and the Robert Parker novels). In this book, Lovejoy has a nervous breakdown, is almost burned and buried alive, and fights a duel with flintlocks in one of the most surprising endings of a mystery novel that has come along in a while (well, this was written in 1977, and I missed it then, so let’s just say that it’s one of the most surprising endings that I’ve read in a while).

I feel the urge upon me–read these books!–an urge that hasn’t hit me in many years. It’s the same urge that put me on to reading all of the Rex Stout and P.G. Wodehouse books. Lovejoy would be pleased–it’s the urge of the collector.

[Finished 24 February 1995]


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