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by Gary Alexander
Five Star, September 2010
244 pages
ISBN: 1594148929

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's a happy day when you see an old friend come back. We haven't had a book by Gary Alexander in a while and here he is, not only with a new book, but a new series.

Alexander's past works were, well, quirky, and that's a good thing. It's not said dismissively, I swear. Although I'll insist 'til I'm blue that I don't read quirky, I do. Who am I kidding? Alexander's previous series featured Mayan private eye, Luis Balam, who solved crimes in the Yucatan, and a cop in a mythical southeast Asian country.

Now Alexander's protagonist is Buster Hightower, a third rate stand-up comic of 59 whose idea of a good crowd is 20 people in a bowling alley. He's managed to survive as a stand-up comic doing gigs like this, NCO clubs and retirement parties, being the angry old guy doing observational humor (imagine maybe a low-rent, not quite so clever Lewis Black). He lives with his love, Carla Chance, who owns a seeming dozen or more insurance agencies. The names gave me the hint that, well, we're not in for a regular story. But, as I reminded myself, "this is Gary Alexander. He always went a little…off the main road…"

Carla and Buster have informally adopted their next-door neighbor, Ted who seems alone in the world, has no family. And it's Ted who gets in a little trouble in DISAPPEARED. See, Ted's not exactly your usual neighbor either. Ted's gig is to "disappear" people while pretending to kill them. He's supposedly a hit man, but what he does is grab the victim, explain their options, help them find a new identity and get paid while doing it. And sends along "proof" that the intended target is dead and gone. Except his dead folk are coming forward – they've found god, or something, and Ted's in big trouble.

Quirky. See what I mean? Goofy even. And yet, these folks are totally endearing and plausible. I don't tend to like funny or goofy, but note that word "endearing" which sort of got me hooked on Buster and friends. I'm not sold on Buster, but I am sold on the talent of Gary Alexander that makes this rather off-beat story worth reading.

§ Andi Shechter, who has twice has chaired mystery conventions, has an ancient MA in Criminal Justice and is proud to have appeared in a mystery as a New York runway model.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, May 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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