No Questions Asked by Oliver Bleeck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"How come you're holding your head like that?"
"It's what's called a faintly quizzical angle," I said. "People in books do it a lot."
With an interesting and logical plot, a likeable protagonist, and quite competent writing, Ross Thomas' "No Questions Asked" (1976) would be a great mystery/crime novel if not for the fact that I have read many almost identical books. I do not quite see the point of reading essentially the same thing all over again, unless one faces a three-hour flight and the bookstand does not offer any other choices.
Philip St. Ives, an ex-reporter, is a professional go-between, who makes his living serving as an intermediary in transactions that for various reasons cannot be conducted in the open. This time a valuable old book by Pliny, Historia Naturalis, has been stolen, the thieves want quarter of a million dollars for its return, and the company that insured the book hires Mr. St. Ives to deliver the money and get the book back. Obviously, things do not go smoothly, and our hero is left without the book or the money but with a dead body on his hands. The plot - which moves to Los Angeles - remains plausible to the very end, and includes a satisfying denouement.
Readers who like prose by all kinds of Raymond Chandler's imitators will enjoy this book. There is a lot of cliché macho talk like the fragment quoted in the epigraph, when the narrator is trying to recover after getting clobbered, and a lot of cliché humor inspired by emulators of Chandler's style. Bottom line: good book, but I have read it before. Many times!
Two and a half stars.
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