Those of us who love the mystery genre have a soft spot for Private Investigators. We can argue over which type of mystery is the best (cozies or hard-boiled) or argue the educational advantages of historical mysteries or the vicarious experiences with international mysteries, but we all love that down on his/her heels, the PI.
Actually, I seldom read a straight-up American PI mystery any more as the genre has grown in so many varied directions. The current trends in this genre are with historical, international and high tech mysteries. But the American image of the mystery is the PI going against the system – and Drink the Tea by Thomas Kaufman is a delightful way to remember this.
Willis Gidney is a PI in Washington DC who has a juvie record and has lived in the foster system—now at 35 he is tough and cocky but also smart and resilient. As we have seen in many PI novels, a good friend asks him to help find his missing daughter who has been gone for two decades. But if you expect the usual read here, you will be surprised.
I am happy to follow a PI who is not a drinking, sarcastic, tough guy – rather Gidney is often funny with his quirky offbeat thoughts and comments. His childhood trauma has made him strong and clever, not a depressed loner. His business card reads: “I cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.” I can see why this book won the 2008 PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition.
Gidney may be scarred, but it has turned him into a modern-day knight with a sense of humor, instead of the usual negative tortured soul. He loves women and children! He charmingly courts a woman! I laughed out loud many times as I read this book – he stole my heart, and I think he will steal yours, too. My rating — 5 of 5.