White with Fish, Red with Murder
by Harley Mazuk
Review by Mel Jacob
Driven Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781925296341
Date: 28 February 2017 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Harley Mazuk offers a return to the noir detective fiction of the '30s and '40s in White with Fish, Red with Murder. His hero, private eye Frank Swiver, finds himself and his secretary embroiled in the murder of a wealthy winemaker aboard a private railroad car.
Set in 1949, the diverse characters include a haughty wine critic, a gun-toting lady winemaker, a sexy chef rumored to have poisoned her husband, a dedicated wine collector, a trusty servant, and a dealer in wines, along with Swiver and his secretary, Vera. The victim was a former military officer and Noted winemaker. He made a highly prized and expensive wine.
Retired General Lloyd Thursby invited guests ostensibly to a wine tasting aboard his private railcar. He suspects one of them wants to murder him and asked Swiver to identify and prevent the murder. Unfortunately, the General is killed before Swiver can act.
After the murder is discovered, Swiver swings into action. He organizes a search of the individual compartment occupied by the guests. Unfortunately, the murder weapon is found in Vera's compartment. When the police arrive, they arrest her.
Swiver is determined to clear Vera and begins by investigating each of the invitees. He discovers most of them had a motive. Meanwhile, the sexy chef, a former lover, tries to resurrect a love affair between her and Swiver.
Mazuk employs many of the conventions used by other greats of the genre including elements from the masters such as Agatha Christie and Dashiel Hammett. A colorful supporting cast helps keep the pages turning as Swiver strives to unravel the strands of a murder that has its roots in money, greed, pride, ambition, and the distant past. Some may find the characters stereotypical, but Mazuk plays against these at times to deliver a fun romp true to the genre. Red herrings and some nice twists add to the fun.