The influence of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series is what originally drove me to this series. Dan Fortune can kind of be seen as Archer’s east coast counterpart, only he’s missing an arm and we know more about his personal life. In this one, Dennis Lynds (writing under the nom de plume “Michael Collins”) treads familiar territory for both he and his influencer: exploring the dirty deeds of a family.
A recurring theme in many of these stories is the past often catches up to us. Macdonald would often use this to explore psychological themes in his stories; in other words, why the Greek classics tell on our behavior. Lynds isn’t so high concept. These are simple mystery stories and he keeps the mental motivations to a minimum. Both writers exhibit a deep sense of empathy for their subjects, even (sometimes especially) the criminals).
That’s what I love about this series but even given that Dan Fortune is still understanding of the whys of bad behavior, this one is tough to swallow because of how Lynds writes far east Asians. Lynds is sympathetic to Asian folk and tries to understand Chinese and Thai culture and is definitely not trying to be racist.
There’s a lot musings on honor and Buddhism and the 0-word, showing that Lynds, despite good intentions, clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. And the female Thai character was written in such a stereotypical way as to make Graham Greene blush. It’s just impossible to get over and it cost the book a star.
It is easy to say that ratings should be determined just by the quality of the tale and not how prejudiced the writer is. I’ve never really known how to strike that balance; I’ve enjoyed plenty of books with prejudicial views and I try to be honest about how it impacts the story itself. If we threw out every book with a prejudicial bend and/or author, we’d have little to read. But I still feel like acknowledging this is important because, at least for me, it impacts my enjoyment of the book and how I view it. I’d be interested to see how other people deal with this.