One Big Itch
Review: Sara Williams introduces "hapa haole" private investigator John Spyer, who looks into the circumstances surrounding the murder of an old friend, in One Big Itch. The novel is published as a "BookZine", a format similar in size to a magazine.
Noted economist Dr. Randolph ("Randy" to his family and friends) Haverhill has been on the receiving end of a number of petty crimes, manuscripts shredded, wedding china broken, office vandalized, and the like. But for Spyer, the trouble began with a note tucked inside an engraved invitation to a celebrity event featuring Randy. "John please come. You must. We need your help." It was signed by Randy's new wife, Hillary. Spyer agrees to meet her, but there seems little that he can do. Three months later, Haverhill is dead, shot in the chest and crotch. Though almost certainly a crime of passion (Randy was, well, randy with the ladies), the police arrest his son, Toby. Spyer is puzzled by this ("Toby Haverhill couldn't murder a cockroach. Of that I was quite certain.") and sets out to determine the truth.
The author provides a map of Oahu, with locations referenced in the book highlighted, a glossary of Hawaiian terms used, and even a pronunciation guide, all well and good and much appreciated. What would probably have been most helpful, however, is a cast of characters. There are a lot of them and it's not always easy keeping who's who straight. The story seems to take a somewhat circuitous path at times, but is otherwise well-plotted with an abundance of red herrings. A minor quibble: Toby never makes for a credible suspect and it's a little disingenuous to spend so much time on his defense, especially when there are so many other interesting suspects.
It would be remiss not to mention something about the book's format. Its size and attractive, eye-catching cover make it appear much like a trade magazine. It fits comfortably in a briefcase or seat pocket and in general is easy to read (though the font used is less than ideal). The format possibly works better with shorter novels (this, at nearly 150 pages, is probably on the long side) and it will be interesting to see if other publishers adopt it.
Overall, One Big Itch is a fast-paced, enjoyable novel with a lot of local Hawaiian color, published in an unusual format that's perfect for taking along to read in place of a magazine. It's well worth seeking out.
Acknowledgment: ArcheBooks provided a copy of One Big Itch for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in One Big Itch: Hawaii
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One Big Itch by Sara Williams — A John Spyer Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $14.95