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Spend Game, Jonathan Gash, Penguin, 1981, ISBN 0-14-006190-8, $5.95

I sometimes think of Lovejoy, Gash’s antiques-cum-detective, as the larcenous equivalent of Angela Lansbury’s Murder She Wrote character. Which is to say that were either of them real, I wouldn’t want to be a friend or relative for fear of being murdered or suspected of being a murderer. The problem is symptomatic of any mystery series in which the detective is anything but that by trade, as the writer tries to consistently involve the character in skullduggery.

In this episode, an old war-buddy fellow dealer is bumped off only slightly before the book opens, and while Lovejoy witnesses the act, his tendency for self-preservation and the fact that he was currently involved in an adulterous tryst, prevents him from coming forward with what little information he could glean to the police. Of course, Lovejoy wouldn’t trust the local constable to sneeze without some peppery remarks from his corner, and the rest of the book goes on like the usual, with Lovejoy achieving vengeance and satisfying his greed in roughly the same equal mixture.

It’s not so much Gash’s plots that keep me reading these, but the pleasure of reading his undeniable joy in describing antiques and their history. I like to think of these books as much of an education in a subject that I know nothing about as much as pure entertainment.

[Finished July 1995]


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