Today’s team review is from Barb; she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading One For The Money by D.B. Borton
What this book isn’t. In its original release, D.B. Barton’s One For The Money came out about six months before the Janet Evanovich blockbuster of the same title, although both star tough women just starting new careers in male-dominated fields (private investigator and bounty hunter). Both are set in pre-cellphone days, and neither woman is the least bit interested in baking cupcakes or knitting.
What this book is, though, is a frequently funny, fast-paced coming-of-age detective story where the one growing up is a woman in her fifties who has been what everyone else expected and is finally ready to be herself. Catherine—Cat to her friends and really…everyone except her husband and his friends—Caliban has finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. A detective.
Her grandson Ben objects that detectives don’t have white hair. Her two older children are appalled (although her youngest does offer to exchange the monogrammed hankies she had been intending as a birthday present for a secondhand semi-automatic). Her husband Fred says nothing at all because he’s dead, and because he stopped paying attention to her about twenty years earlier, which Cat verified by taking up swearing.
One day I got the impression that Fred hadn’t been listening to me for a while. Say, twenty years. So I thought I’d try a little verbal variety to see if he’d notice.
Without much further notice, Fred quietly drops dead, freeing Cat to finally get a life. From there, she purchases an apartment building in a working-class neighborhood as income hedge against the vicissitudes of the detective biz, buys a copy of The Landlord’s Handbook, and looks for tenants. This is complicated when she shows her first applicants the upstairs apartment which is unfurnished except for the dead body.
“Melanie spoke for the first time, her voice deep and husky. ‘I don’t think your last tenant has vacated, Mrs. Caliban.’
There was nothing in the goddamn Landlord’s Handbook about this.”
Cat decides she’s personally insulted by the murder. Not only did it occur in her building, but she’s appalled by the lack of interest among police or press. Despite the fact that she hasn’t yet taken karate or shooting lessons, let alone gotten a gun, Cat decides to investigate. After all, she’s read a lot of Nancy Drew. She’s bought a wardrobe of dark pantsuits like V.I. Warshawski. And most importantly—she’s a mother.
‘Hell, I’d investigated things all my adult life. Who left the freezer door open so all the ice cream melted. Who left their new purple T-shirt in the washer so that everybody’s underwear turned lavender. Who drew stripes on the cat with Marks-a-Lot. Why couldn’t Fred ever think of anything to give me for my birthday.”
Along with plenty of snark, granny jokes, and a fair sprinkling of f-bombs, the mystery unfolds in standard Murder-She-Wrote formula. After a longish initial bit of tell that might have been better worked into the action later in the book, Cat discovers the murder and begins investigating.
The police, naturally, tell her to back off and leave the investigation to professionals. Equally naturally, Cat ignores them as she gathers her posse of tenants and friends, uncovers another murder, and slowly unravels a web of lies and star-crossed love that includes a Hollywood star, an arab sheik, a retired sewer engineer, a missing fabled emerald necklace, and a sizeable portion of 1980’s Cincinnati street population.
Tracking clues takes her through much of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. But it’s her experience as a mother that lets Cat figure out who the murderer must be and what happened to the missing treasure.
In One For The Money, author D. B. Borton takes just enough liberties with the standard detective formula to have me rooting for Cat and her unlikely assistants. I particularly enjoyed her confidence in herself, her ‘because-I’m-the-mother-and-I-say-so’ approach to crime solving, and her conviction that a lifetime of reading Nancy Drew, decades of motherhood, and The Landlord’s Handbook are the perfect preparation for her life as a detective.
“Suspicion is second nature to any woman who’s raised three kids.”
Meet Cincinnati’s newest, oldest, funniest detective-in-training. After decades of marriage, motherhood, and grandmotherhood, Cat Caliban is looking for a new career. Detective work seems a logical choice. So, she sells her suburban house, buys an apartment building in a “transitional” neighborhood, and begins her training, only to discover a dead body in an upstairs apartment. What’s the connection between a murdered homeless woman and the Golden Age of Hollywood silent movies? Cat must discover it before the killer can strike again.
In this first book of the popular Cat Caliban series, Cat assembles her colorful cast of helpers and neighborhood hangers-on. This senior sleuth challenges stereotypical portrayals of older women generally and older women detectives in particular. This book is rated PG-13 for language.