Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 384 Pages, 3304 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Audible Audio
Light Fun With A Bit Of Everything
Mitchell Peatwick Kincaid is a stockbroker, but a fondness for Sam Spade and a mild feeling of discontent with his job convinced him to get a private investigator license, and about a year ago, a bet with his boss and some friends - and a lot of alcohol - goaded him into leaving his prosperous career with his prestigious firm, putting the stuff from his monied life into storage, and taking on private detecting as a career under the name Mitchell Peatwick. And if he can get his private investigation firm into the black in a year, he'll win that $10,000 bet.
Twelve months of private investigating, however, taught Mitch two things: everybody lies, and real life private investigation work doesn't resemble anything remotely similar to Sam Spade's life. Until she walked in.
She is Mae Belle Sullivan and she's looking for a PI who isn't all that bright so she can lie to him. Not for kicks, but to get help finding answers following the death of her uncle. Answers that will save Mae from financial ruin and explain what her reprehensible old fart of a relative was doing with all the art and keepsakes that have been disappearing from his house for the past few months. An overheard conversation pointed her in the direction of her uncle's journal, but it's been missing since he died and Mae's starting to get frantic to find it. So she lies. And she uses her feminine wiles. And she pays Mitch Peatwick just about everything in her bank account to investigate the murder of her uncle. Who was in his seventies, had a heart condition and a twenty-five year old mistress, and died in her bed. Mae's fairly certain it wasn't murder.
Mitch knows he's being lied to by the delicious-looking Mae Belle, but her retainer pushes him into the black and secures his bet...and anything is better than trailing cheating spouses, so he takes her case. There's just a couple of problems for them both. Mitch isn't anywhere near as slow as Mae had hoped, and as more and more clues start to pile up, her uncle's death starts to look more and more like an actual murder - even to Mae.
With a quirky cast of primary and secondary characters and a twisting, rollicking plot that includes suspense, mystery, romance, and comedy, What the Lady Wants delivers a lot of charm and a few good hours of light entertainment. Originally published in 1995, the story is a little worn around the edges and has a bit of a dated patina to it, but not so much that it detracts from the story as in some of Crusie's books. It's more like a faint scent on the air than a bat upside the head. Noticeable, but not painful.
Mitch is a fun character, and quicker than he looks. Which is probably a good thing. Which is probably a good thing. I'm dating myself here, but he reminded me a lot of Magnum PI or Rick Simon from Simon & Simon - a bit cynical about life, a bit sloppy on the outside but sharp and thorough when he needed to be. Mae was endearing. Intelligent and kind, with a streak of independence a mile wide and a determination that is formidable. She's a bit stubborn when she needs to be, but not so cold as to be unappealing as a person. She cares about the people she loves and takes on the responsibility of caring for them, as needed. Together they made a good couple, and their banter was one of the high points of the book.
Crusie excels at quickly paced plots with quirky characters and a lot of witty, intelligent, and sarcastic banter. It's what keeps me coming back to her when I want or need some brain candy. I'd love to see this book get a bit of a modernized polish to clear away the dated patina, but even as it stands, I liked it quite a bit.