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Tuesday, January 19, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Way back in the mid-1960s - when I was a fairly young bride - one of our favorite shows was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and a young David McCallum as cohort Illya Kuryakin. Fast-forward to today, when one of our favorite shows is NCIS - and one of the stars is a slightly older McCallum (now 82, I believe), who plays medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. So when I discovered that he's written a book - in my favorite genre, no less - dipping my toes in the water was just too tempting.

And I wanted so much to love it. But if I'm honest in my review, I have to say that although it's well written, my enjoyment comes closer to like than totally smitten. I'm not entirely sure why; but I do know that while the characters are well developed, I just never quite warmed up to any of them including the New York aspiring actor "hero" Harry Murphy (and certainly not the off-the-wall female agent he encounters along the way). That said, the plot is interesting - if a little complex - and there's a sprinkling of subtle humor throughout that's always a plus for me. 

At the beginning, Harry overhears a conversation among the three Bruschetti brothers - Sal, Max and Enzo - during which the aging Max announces plans for the family to retire their unlawful, but profitable, activities. When Harry learns that the disbanding plans include the murder of a man in London, though, he decides to make an impromptu trip across the Pond to prevent it from happening. Harry has, after all, just been paid for a mayonnaise commercial (conjuring up memories of Robert Klein's side-splitting routine about a marching band's tribute to the popular condiment), so money is not an object at the moment.  

He manages to save the day, but in the process he ends up with a ton of illicit cash and, thought to be a mob enforcer by both the British police and the bad guys, squarely in the crosshairs of a very dangerous man. From that point on, it becomes an ongoing and relatively entertaining case of who's chasing whom right up to the end.

All in all, this is a solid, easy-to-read book, and should you decide to give it a go, that would be just ducky with me.

Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum (Thomas Dunne Books, January 2016); 352 pp.

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