RARA-AVIS: Ross Thomas: The Money Harvest

From: Burridge, Stephen ( stephen.burridge@hp.com)
Date: 21 Feb 2005

This is the earliest of the 4 Thomas books I found on the shelves of my local public library branch, a mid-70s novel reprinted in paperback by Mysterious Press in the early 90s. It's the only one of his books I've read. I have to admit that I didn't even recognize his name when it was raised on the list.

I found the book a light, fast, fairly diverting read, a little dated but sometimes in a quite amusing way. E.g. the description of the clothes worn by a dandyish antique dealer. Public policy concerns of the time, like the energy crisis and the big Soviet wheat buy-up of the early '70s, get some mention. The latter may even have suggested the plot.

The story opens with the murder by Washington D.C. street thugs of a 93-year-old former political power broker, who happened to be in the men's room of a fancy gentleman's club the night before, and overheard discussion of a criminal conspiracy. He contacted his old law partner that night and was to have provided details the day of his murder. So the law partner and a rich, successful former private investigator decide to look into the murder and conspiracy.

Most of the entertainment value of the book, for me, was in the descriptions of the various characters and their "backstories", not their roles in the plot. They are generally darkish, and also humourous in a satirical way. There's also a bit of satire on the workings of government and the lives of civil servants. There is little suspense. The investigator does a few interesting things, but basically operates on the basis of a big, correct hunch.
  I don't know how typical of Thomas's works "The Money Harvest" is. Having read it, I'll be thinking of Thomas as a writer of reasonably intelligent easy-to-read entertainments. I won't be in a hurry to pick up another, but I probably will at some point.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 21 Feb 2005 EST