Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finished: "Mississippi Vivian" by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson

Finished: Mississippi Vivian by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson, 2010, 9781594148743.

Good. The second Ted Stephens PI novel. Wilson died in 2008. I do not recall if Crider wrote whether this was finished before Wilson passed. I think it was.

Set in 1970. Stephens travels to Losgrove, MS to investigate an insurance company fraud. Several men from the small MS town had worked as longshoreman in Houston and claimed injuries. All claims went through the same attorney and the company is insurance.

Stephens gets only get one person to talk to him in the small town, Mississippi Vivian, a local waitress. Vivian is a lousy talker though. She talks in circles, asks questions in return, and does not volunteer information. Stephens asks about the longshoreman and finds one committed suicide. In a friend's house. Well, that's suspicious.

Stephens talks to the attorney who says he knows nothing of the checks that were addressed to his location. Well, that's suspicious, too.

The Sheriff is friendly until asked about the suicide. The Sheriff then tells Stephen to not ask around anymore about the dead guy. That is also suspicious. Steppehns says, Sure I'll leave it alone. But, he doesn't mean it.

Stephens digs. He asks questions, asks questions, and asks questions. One of the guy's claiming injury tries to beat Stephens up and fails. The same guy ends up dead with two gunshots through his chest. Stephens keeps digging and figures things out. Stephens heads back to Houston.

1. Good. Like usual. No surprise. I would have preferred a faster pace but this is not that kind of novel.
2. Realism (to a point). Stephens does not pack heat. Does not have cop friends on the inside. Does not have special computer skills and high-tech surveillance equipment. He asks questions and works the case. He (mostly) sticks to his mandate of insurance fraud.
3. Crider recurring motif: enjoyment of common food. Stephens often eats at the cafe Mississippi Vivian works at. He loves the meatloaf and catfish and drinks lots of iced tea.
4. When did crime scene tape come into use?
5. Small period references. At one point Stephens gets a can of soda: I prefer to drink straight from the can. All those stories about how you can catch some kind of disease from rat urine on drink cans are greatly exaggerated, if you ask me. I never heard that urban rumor.
6. No one likes Stephen's jokes. It is a recurring joke in itself. He is the wise cracking PI but no one catches on. Stephens comments on the misuse of apostrophe's.
7. Stephens often gets people saying things like, "You're the private investigator, you should know that."
8. This is all set in the MS. Stephens wife has just a couple brief appearances on phone conversations. The Clyde Wilson-style character from #1 does not appear.

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