Saturday, March 10, 2012

Life of the Party

One of the best things about the e-book format is that it is so very versatile. For instance, thanks to e-publishing, an author can release an individual novella inexpensively. Perhaps this author will succeed in luring some readers in with the price—and if the reader likes what he sees, he (or she) may be persuaded to check out some of the author’s novels. (And thus addicts are born…)

Steve Brewer’s Party Doll is a perfect example. It’s far too long to be considered a short story, but it’s far too short to be considered a novel. So it’s given a “novella” label, priced at $1.99 for the Kindle, and offers readers a glimpse into the world of private investigator Bubba Mabry. This was my first time reading a story with this character, and I was rather looking forward to it.

Our story begins when Bubba is hired by Elmo “Slick” Gurken, owner of the Pink Pony Gentlemen’s Club. It seems that one of the strippers has gone missing. Her name is Trudy Moore, her stage name is Joy Forever. Slick wants her found because she’s a star attraction, and she’s been missing for a week now. Business has gone down. Oh, and she also owes Slick ten grand. (Not that that has anything to do with his altruism!)

And so Bubba launches his investigation, asking around for more information about Joy Forever. He manages to get lucky and stumbles over a clue that points him to her whereabouts… but when he shows up, Death is not far behind, and a murder occurs faster than you can say “bubblegum”. Bubba suddenly finds himself in far over his head in a case that involves wide-spread corruption in the government, being investigated by U. S. Marshals. (They’re understandably peeved at his interference.)

I enjoyed Party Doll, which isn’t too long but which manages to piece together a pretty complex plot. There are several neat clues with which the author ties the corruption angle in with Joy’s disappearance. (There’s a classic trick with a phone number, for instance, and some old-fashioned legwork is involved as well.) When murder occurs, the plot really becomes twisted and tangled, and it’s just plenty of fun to follow Bubba along as he stumbles through the investigation. The only unfortunate thing is that the ending isn’t really indicated by many clues— there’s one half-clue that points Bubba in the right direction, but it’s hardly conclusive.This isn't the perfect logic of Nicky Welt and The Nine Mile Walk! (Then again, so few stories are...)

Author Steve Brewer
And that brings me to discuss the book’s humour. (How does it do that? Because I'm writing this blog and can do whatever I like.) I found the jokes could be roughly divided into two categories. The first were the amusing jokes. The second were jokes involving cleavage or women’s bodies, which by themselves really don’t make for much of a joke. These jokes often seem to lack a punch line— I just don’t understand why a woman’s enormous breasts are supposed to be funny in and of themselves. (It will hardly help matters if I say that the stripper with giant breasts is called Laronda Globes.) Thankfully, most of the funny scenes come across as amusing in some way or other—such as a memorable bit with a deus ex machina appearing near the finale and throwing the villain’s game completely off!

That being said, I liked reading this novella. Bubba is a genuinely decent character. He’s got a good marriage and is conscientious about his work, doing everything in his power to see justice done. Call me old-fashioned, but I like that kind of drive, determination, and decency.

So do I recommend Party Doll? If you’re a fan of the series, I suspect you will enjoy it. If you’ve never read an entry in the series, I think I’d try starting somewhere else first. But I do know one thing: I enjoyed the book enough to purchase the first Bubba Mabry novel, Lonely Street, available for a truly bargain price of $1.99 on Amazon’s Kindle Store. Surely that’s a sign that the author has done something right?


  1. I just found a very brief and not so glowing review of MOST MEN DON'T KILL at Mystery*File. I didn't even remember the private eye character correctly. He's not a reporter at all. He's an ex-GI with some shell shock and alcohol issues. That's how memorable it was. ...sigh...

  2. Bubba Mabry is truly a character whose private-eye exploits tend to land him in a whole lot of trouble. But his heart is in the right place and with a little imagination, he generally finds a way to land on his feet. Despite the obstacles he comes up against, his motivation to succeed carries him along. I have liked every book about Bubba I've read. He is able to laugh at himself and certainly is devoted to his wife, and it is these qualities that make reading Steve Brewer's stories time well-spent.

  3. As a self-published author, I totally agree with you about the versatility of e-book format. And this one sounds good, by the way. Thanks for sharing it with us!!