Plot or Premise
John Cuddy is a former insurance investigator who lost his job when he started drinking too much following the death of his wife to cancer. A friend from Vietnam calls him up unexpectedly while visiting Boston, arranges to meet him for dinner and drinks, and misses the date only to show up dead the next morning. Cuddy smells a rat in the official story and sets out to help clear his friend’s name and help his family.
What I Liked
Well, I was supposed to be studying French today. I even promised myself I would spend the evening doing that. Then I made the mistake of wandering over to a bookstore and looking through the Mystery section to see if there was anything that leaped off the shelves at me. Jeremiah Healy’s “The Staked Goat” was feeling particularly restless and somehow not only forced itself off the shelf and into my hands, but also managed to take hold of my wallet and steer me to the register. That was, I think, somewhere around 5:00 p.m. Except for the time on the way to the diner and the time to walk home, I’ve been subjecting myself to the simply wonderful story contained within its covers ever since. I’m almost tempted to read it again over the next few days, s l o w l y this time, to see if there is anything I missed, and if not, just to savour it a while longer. In any event, a very enjoyable four hours.
I liked the very realistic portrayal of the friends — biting their tongues when they used idioms (“dead to the world”, etc), laughing occasionally, etc. But regardless of the fast-paced action after the visit to Pittsburgh, the part I loved the best was the portrayal of the gay couple. I lived with a gay male couple with about the same age discrepancy, who had been together for nineteen years, and it seemed like I was back in their kitchen having breakfast when I was reading the story.
What I Didn’t Like
I did wonder about the accuracy of some of the details surrounding “sitting shiva” for Al (i.e., a funeral on Saturday? Jewish Sabbath? I didn’t think that was kosher, no pun intended). But it did say at the start that Al didn’t go very often — hope that wasn’t a cop-out…could’ve been an interesting sub-area.
The Bottom Line
I was only going to read a little — and lost an entire evening!