Swann's Lake of Despair
A Henry Swann Mystery by Charles Salzberg
Review: Former lawyer turned independent contractor for hire Henry Swann agrees to partner with a middle-man named Goldblatt for a percentage of each deal he arranges — even though Swann was mugged on their first case together — in Swann's Lake of Despair, the third mystery in this series by Charles Salzberg.
That first case involves a stolen diary, supposedly kept by a young woman during the Jazz Age, contents unknown, but wanted by someone who's willing to pay serious money for its return. Unfortunately, Swann is on the losing end of the transaction, returning with neither the diary nor the money. But before he can come with a scheme to retrieve one or the other, Goldblatt has another case for him: find some photos taken years ago that may be worth a small fortune to someone today … if they even exist. And then there's the case of the missing girlfriend. She seemed to be in a stable relationship but suddenly packs up and leaves without a word to anyone. Her boyfriend is willing to spend anything to find out what happened to her, but more than anything else, he simply wants an explanation on why she left.
Swann's Lake of Despair feels like three short story concepts that have been merged, shoe-horned as it were, into a single storyline. It's a little slow going at first, as each subplot requires its own setup and there is nothing to connect them. (Indeed, they turn out to be three completely separate storylines.) Too, Henry Swann is a difficult character to embrace. He's gruff and aloof, and yet tends to grow on the reader as someone who's also basically fair and incredibly insightful. But what is most intriguing about the book is how Swann negotiates an end game to each of his cases. For each, there is a simple way out but it clearly isn't the right way out; what Swann wants to do — indeed, what the reader wants Swann to do — is come up with an exit strategy that may not be easy but one that is mutually acceptable to all parties involved, allowing each to walk away agreeable with the outcome if not necessarily completely satisfied with it. There's a nuanced complexity here that makes this all very appealing in the end. A solid mystery and one that is recommended.
Acknowledgment: Five Star provided an ARC of Swann's Lake of Despair for this review.
Review Copyright © 2015 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Swann's Lake of Despair: New York City
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Swann's Lake of Despair by Charles Salzberg — A Henry Swann Mystery
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: October 2014
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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