Robert Sheckley: The Alternative Detective

I saw it opined in several places that the third of Sheckley’s mysteries featuring Hob Draconian was so good it would make me want to go back and read the first two — and since I’m a “save the best for last” kinda person, I opted to read them in chronological order. I found The Alternative Detective enjoyable in a low-key way — I wouldn’t say it’s great, but neither am I sorry I read it. Here’s one of my favorite passages to illustrate its flavor:

I have noticed that private detectives do not spend much time discussing the injuries incurred in the line of duty, or whatever it is they call their work. They alll seem to have this incredible ability to shake of serious beatings, sometimes with blunt objects, with a remark to the effect that they were a little stiff the next day but a good shower and massage would take care of it

I’m not like that. I bruise easily. The contusions I suffered from that fall in the warehouse in Bicêtre left ugly yellow and purple blotches. I’d probably have them for months. And they hurt. I won’t mention it again, but I did want you to know.

Much of The Alternative Detective‘s pleasure is meta-textual — it assumes you’ve read enough hardboiled PI fiction that you will appreciate how it honors some of the time-worn genre conventions and inverts or undermines others, like the more-or-less invincible protagonist. The Alternative Detective also riffs on some of the shopworn plot elements of the genre, perhaps most explicitly on The Maltese Falcon-styled tales. For my taste, The Alternative Detective never got quite so silly that I stopped paying attention to its plot entirely; nor did it ever get so serious that I gave it the kind of scrutiny I give to Dashiell Hammett’s fiction.

I was a little bugged by the narrator’s hippie-ness (worse, actually: ex-hippie-ness) — but that’s mostly a personal problem on my part, and anyway I wasn’t bugged enough to stop.

needs more demons? I’ll go with “no,” though it’s a close call.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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