A unique style
With "The Fat Innkeeper," Encinitas' Alan Russell no longer is an up-and-coming writer of mysteries but has established himself as a fully developed author with an individual style and voice. He's worked the wrinkles out of this mystery-writing business, and has produced a book as smooth and polished as anything on the best-sellers list.
His fourth book overall is the second featuring Am Caulfield surfer and head of security at a fictional world-class resort hotel in La Jolla. The local landmarks are genuine (even if the Hotel California is not, although it seems loosely based on the Hotel Del Coronado) and will be familiar to readers from the San Diego area. (And you have to like any detective who starts off his day reading the Blade-Citizen!)
As in the earlier "The Hotel Detective," Caulfield faces a host of problems at his exclusive resort keeping a sex convention isolated from the rest of the guests, disposing of a whale carcass that washes ashore near the hotel, making peace between the staff and the new Japanese owners. Oh, and there's a murder of course.
The killing takes place at a convention of survivors of near-death experiences. The victim? A debunker of such theories leaving Caulfield dozens of potential suspects, all of whom had good reason to hate the deceased.
Further complicating Caulfield's job are the San Diego police who don't want him nosing around their case, and a newspaper reporter who is working on the story.
Russell's development of Caulfield is believable and consistent, and anyone who has ever worked in a service industry will recognize the archetypal customers. Best of all, the story line is always imaginative, often funny and takes plenty of unexpected turns.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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