When Howard Engel wrote his first crime fiction novel he set out to have a different kind of private detective as the hero. Benny Cooperman, first featured in The Suicide Murders, is Canadian and Jewish; he is easy going and doesn't carry a gun. Benny works in Grantham, Ontario, a fictional town modeled after St. Catherines, Ontario, which is in Canada's Niagara Region.
This book, Murder on Location (1982), is the third novel in the Benny Cooperman series. The story opens in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side of the river. Benny is searching for a missing person, the wife of a businessman. Billie Mason, the missing wife, may have gone to Niagara Falls hoping to get a bit part in a movie production. While trying to locate Billie, Benny discovers a dead body and his life gets more complicated. He has to determine whether Billie's disappearance is related to her interactions with the Hollywood actors and crews who are filming in Niagara Falls, or if the shady crooks who are associated with her husband are responsible.
The main attraction in these books, from my point of view, is Benny Cooperman and his family and friends. Benny seems to subsist on egg-salad sandwiches and bagels. He has a good relationship with the policemen he encounters. He spends time with his parents and he is just generally a good guy.
I enjoyed this book particularly because the story revolves around the making of a film, and the setting is near Niagara Falls. Benny and several other characters have been involved in amateur theatrical productions, and that is always fun to read about. The story itself gets convoluted and I was continually confused by the multitude of characters. Yet I admired Benny's determined search for Billie, and I did want to know how it all worked out in the end.
I will be continuing this series for two reasons. One is that I have grown to enjoy reading Canadian crime fiction and getting that opportunity to learn more about that country. I am participating in the 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge which runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.
I was originally motivated to read this series when I read about an unusual event in Howard Engel's life. In July 2001 he suffered a stroke that resulted in a rare condition called alexia sine agraphia. He could no longer read and his memory was affected. After recovering (to a certain extent), he wrote another mystery featuring Benny Cooperman, titled Memory Book (2005). In that book, Cooperman suffers from the same disorder that Engel has. I wanted to read earlier books in the series before reading Memory Book, but it is taking me a while to get to that goal, so I may have to rethink my strategy.
I reviewed the 2nd book in the series, The Ransom Game, here.
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 1982
Length: 222 pages
Series: Benny Cooperman, #3
Setting: Ontario, Niagara Region
Source: I purchased my copy.