Monday, September 27, 2021

Murder: Parnell Hall

Murder was the second book in the Stanley Hastings series by Parnell Hall. My husband is a big fan of that series and I am slowly catching up. Stanley is a bumbling private detective (sort of). Actually, most of the time he does quite well at it, he just doesn't have confidence in himself. 

His primary work is following up on accident reports where people want to sue for damages, to supply evidence for his boss, attorney Richard Rosenberg, who is a piece of work. It sounds like a terrible job. But inevitably he gets involved in a real murder that he has to solve. I enjoyed this entry in the series a lot.

This time the subject matter was pretty serious (prostitution and pornography, but with no graphic violence or sex). A woman has been blackmailed into working as a prostitute, and needs help to get out of a difficult situation. Stanley's wife knows her, sympathizes, and asks Stanley to help. He has a hard time saying no to his wife, so he gets involved.

Some readers complain about the series being dated. Murder was published in 1987, and Stanley has to respond to a pager and hunt around for a telephone booth to make a call from to get his assignments for his job. But that is exactly what I like about books set in the 1980s and 1990s. No cell phones and no internet to look things up instantaneously.

I like humor in mysteries, but I prefer the subtle approach. In the past, I have avoided mysteries that are written specifically with the intent to be funny, but my enjoyment of all types of humor in mysteries is broadening. In the Stanley Hastings series, the humor is present in every interaction, but my favorite parts so far are Parnell Hall's descriptions of Stanley's day-to-day job of meeting with applicants who want to sue for damages after an injury. He usually has much sympathy for the applicants because they are often living in bad situations with low-paying jobs, but he also describes the rough neighborhoods he has to go to to meet the clients, the dangers involved, and his fear of that part of the job. 

The stories are told in first person narration by Stanley. I like that style of storytelling, and it works well here. We get the whole story from Stanley's point of view. The stories are also fast-paced and keep my interest from beginning to end. This was a fun book and I hope it doesn't take me so long to read book 3 in the series.

This is my husband's review on Goodreads, from 2013. Since then he has read seven more books in the series and has enjoyed them all.

This second volume in Parnell Hall's Stanley Hastings detective series is every bit as good as the stellar original. With a witty, self-deprecating protagonist (who, amazingly, has a home life and is personally undamaged) and an intricate clockwork plot (although the ending does feel a bit rushed) you really can't ask for a more entertaining read. Since I came late to this long-running series I anticipate more reading pleasure ahead.

This is my second book read and reviewed for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.


Publisher:  Donald I. Fine, 1987.
Length:      256 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Stanley Hastings, #2
Setting:      New York, New York
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      Borrowed from my husband.


Cath said...

Another completely new to me series... I have not even 'heard' of the author let alone the books. And they sound excellent so I'll look them up.

TracyK said...

Cath, the series may not be for everyone, but I can say for sure that they are worth a try. Don't know how easy they are to find. The author wrote another series about a lawyer (not humorous, I think) and also one called the Puzzle Lady series .... that I know little about.

CLM said...

I've never tried this series but I agree with you that the lack of technology is part of the appeal. In some book I was reading the other day, the protagonist had 3% left on his cell phone battery and used the phone to trick the bad guys into shooting it instead of him. While part of me related to the situation, it also distracted me from the action.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, more and more the use of technology is a bore. It calls too much attention to itself. If I were to write another novel, I would probably set it around this time period. It seems so restful now.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm with you, Tracy, when it comes to wit in a novel. I prefer it to be subtle. Otherwise (well, for me, at least) it distracts from the main plot. The context for these stories is interesting, and I like the fact that it doesn't get explicit or graphic. Glad you enjoyed this.

Rick Robinson said...

Parnell Hall is a very nice, very funny man, and a pretty good writer, but after trying the first two in the series, I donated them and never went back. They just didn't seem like "real" mysteries to me, whereas I loved Chandler and Christie.

TracyK said...

Constance, there are a lot of series written (or at least started) in the 1980s and 90s that I enjoy a lot. (Also vintage mysteries, but that is another subject.) Technology is nice and I worked in IT before I retired, but I don't like it in books at all.

TracyK said...

Patti, I have never liked the idea that people have to be tied to their phones, always available to whoever wants to call. In the work world, I see that as a very bad thing, basically people end up on call all day long. So when I am reading I like to read about situations where technology, and especially cell phones, are not ever present.

TracyK said...

Margot, I dithered over describing this novel and the series as somewhat cozy, but the series has been described as hardboiled, which I think is going a bit too far. It is somewhere in the middle, and I like that.

TracyK said...

Rick, I have heard that Parnell Hall was a very nice man, and creative and funny. I remember that Yvette Banek at her blog, In So Many Words, talked about how much she liked this series. I can understand why they would not appeal to you and some other readers, though.

Katrina said...

Amazingly my local library has a couple of his books, I had never heard of him. I'll definitely give him a go.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I am glad you can try some of his books, and hope you like them. I do enjoy them a lot.

Sam Sattler said...

I'm like you in that I enjoy those "dated novels" from the seventies and eighties. They remind me of just how different a world we lived in just three decades ago; it still amazes me how quickly everything changed. My grandkids don't have a clue as to what it was like to communicate in those days...looking for pay phones, finding them out of order, someone hogging them, feeling unsafe while using them. Yeah, those were the good old days.

col2910 said...

I loved the first when I read it years ago, Tracy. I was steered towards it by your husband, so I owe him my gratitude. I must try and read more in the series soon.

TracyK said...

Sam, there are many good things about having more access to communication nowadays, but I had seeing people staring at their phones all the time. Still I must move forward with the times.

But I would still rather read about life before 2000 than afterward, given a choice. I enjoy reading about policemen who resist the use of computers in solving crimes (as in Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes series), even though I know how much those improvements have helped in crime solving.

TracyK said...

Col, it is nice to be reminded of another fan of Parnell Hall's Stanley Hastings series. Glen is still enjoying them and we look for ones that he is missing from time to time. They don't usually have hardback copies of them at the book sale, which is what Glen wants.

We did have fun visiting the book sale this year and I bought too many books, as usual.