A couple years ago I read and reviewed The Big Show Stopper by Ken Dalton and I thoroughly enjoyed the zany detective tale. The next year I read The Tartan Shroud and found it equally entertaining. So, when I was asked to review the latest book in the Pinky and Bear series, I happily agreed. And I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed it just as much.
Dalton’s detective stories are light hearted romps with snappy dialogue, lots of action and a cast of outrageous characters who often upend a few stereotypes as they bumble to their clients’ rescue.
Here’s the publisher’s description of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?: “Bear’s planned afternoon of beer and baseball is interrupted by a phone call from a man he hardly remembers from their years at Elko High. So begins the tale of a cold-blooded murder and the theft of a dime worth two million dollars!
Faced with bi-coastal murder suspects, Pinky hands Bear and Flo the sweaty task of tracking down one of the suspects along the hot, humid North Carolina shoreline while he chooses to pursue the other on the Kona coast of Hawaii. But Pinky, after imbibing too many Mai Tai’s with a bevy of sky-goddesses, and a moved-up court date, is forced to return to Carson City, sans suspect.
Bear and Flo hit pay dirt and, with the identity of the killer in hand, they fly across the Pacific Ocean to the smoggy Beijing airport where they meet Joe, the uncle of Pinky’s Chinese secretary. The enigmatic Joe quotes Confucius and Shakespeare as he purposefully guides the dynamic duo to their final destination— oxygen sparse Lhasa, Tibet.”
Like the previous Pinky and the Bear novels I’ve read, the story is told mainly from two viewpoints: the sophisticated and unscrupulous lawyer, Pinky Delamont, and his bumbling but honest redneck private investigator, Bear Zabarte. The main characters still outrageously and unselfconsciously ignore any attempts to pressure them into political correctness. Pinky hasn’t learned a thing that would improve his morals but he has learned to hide this better and Bear is no wiser than he ever was. The reader is privy to their thoughts and understands the self-seeking, and occasionally noble, motives behind their every action. I enjoyed seeing Bear and Flo developing their confidence and assertiveness in this story so that they are better able to handle their employer. The recurring cast of zany, eccentric characters is one of the strongest aspects of the series.
The story is set in the United States, China and Tibet which added a different twist to this novel. As they found themselves in Scotland (The Tartan Shroud), the main characters were once more out of their comfort zone and this was guaranteed to lead to a few misunderstandings and lots of laughs. Bear is certainly not a seasoned traveller and I enjoyed observing him develop a tenuous grasp of Confusion (Bear’s word, not mine) and Chinese philosophy.
Like Dalton’s previous books, the humour is what makes this novel. It swings from amusing to absolutely farcical but fits perfectly into the story. Once again he has delivered crime fiction without too much grit and lots of laughs. I’m not sure what Confusion would say about it but I imagine he might agree that Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? is a fun read.
The author is running a Cliffhanger Contest: Brother, can you spare a dime? ends with a question that is a prize winning cliff hanger that defies all logic. Let Ken know how you would answer the question and he will choose the two answers he likes the best. Both winners will receive a complete paperback set of his Pinky and Bear mystery series, each one personally inscribed:
The Bloody Birthright
The Big Show Stopper
Death is a Cabernet
The Tartan Shroud
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Email your cliff hanger answer to firstname.lastname@example.org and in a couple of months Ken will post the winners’ names on his Facebook page.
About Ken Dalton: Ken was born in 1938 at Hollywood Hospital. He grew up in Los Angeles with his parents, his older sister and younger brother. In a turn of bad luck, the dreaded Polio virus attacked Ken at the age of five. By the age of sixteen, after eleven years of operations, therapy, and braces to mitigate the effects of Polio, Ken’s luck changed when he met the girl of his dreams. A few years later they married, produced three wonderful children, and settled into a happy life in Southern California. In 1966, Ken and his family moved to the green hills of Sonoma County where they bought a home surrounded with apple trees. Some time later he designed, built, and operated a small winery that produced award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Then, in a moment of madness, he began writing. His first article was published in Golf Illustrated. Many more golf articles followed in national and regional magazines including Golf Magazine and Fairways and Greens. Eventually Ken felt the urge to write his first novel. Now, after the publication of The Bloody Birthright, The Big Show Stopper, Death is a Cabernet, and The Tartan Shroud, Ken has published his latest Pinky and Bear mystery, Brother, can you spare a dime?