Blame it on the dragonfish. Exquisitely sculpted in yellow jade, it's a piece that collector and sometimes private investigator Philip Beckett simply cannot resist. To purchase it, against all his better filial instincts, he takes the case, for which his formidable sibling rival, aptly named Regina, with no little contempt agrees to meet his handsome fee. The family, which Philip has scrupulously deserted, has a problem, it seems, for cousin Audrey's wayward husband, Count Sergio D'Alesse, has added an embarrassing $40,000 gambling debt to his long list of dubious accomplishments. All Philip has to do is make it go away—which he does. Only before you can say Sergio, the count is dead. And Philip is the prime suspect. In this smart, suspenseful new crime novel, the enthusiastically reviewed David Cray turns aside from police procedurals to follow the fortunes of Philip Beckett, erstwhile scion of his family's industrial empire, in his attempt to solve Sergio's apparently senseless murder. Not that Philip doesn't learn soon enough who the killer is. It's what he can't determine that's more worrisome, to both him and his family, as it becomes increasingly clear that the shadowy figure behind the killer is one of them.
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The pseudonymous Cray obviously wants to be better known—and paid. This is his fifth attempt at starting a new series (after 2004's Partners) and it might just be the one that catches on. There are welcome, wry overtones of such classic high society detectives as Philo Vance and Nick and Nora Charles in Cray's leading character, Philip Beckett, scion of a wealthy New York family who went through Harvard and Wharton before deciding not to take over his father's industrial empire. Now he augments his smallish trust fund with sporadic earnings as a private investigator. His real passion—Chinese antiquities carved from jade—occasionally forces Philip to take cases he would otherwise refuse. That's why he reluctantly agrees to help clear a gambling debt run up by his cousin's husband, a fortune-hunting Italian count. When the count turns up dead, Philip and several other members of the Beckett clan become suspects in his murder. Although there's something of a time warp between what we know of life in today's New York and Beckett's modus vivendi, as well as the occasional need to suspend credibility as the PI gets down to the nittier gritties of the case, Cray brings a considerable amount of wit and nostalgia to his tribute to a sophisticated subgenre many of us thought was dead and buried. (Feb. 8)
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*Starred Review* Philip Corvascio Beckett is one of the lucky ones. Born into money, living off a trust fund, a sharp dresser with a "positive talent for leisure," he perceives only one character flaw--the desire, from time to time, to do a bit of work as an investigator. As the story opens, Beckett, an avid art collector, has his eye on a particularly beautiful jade sculpture; in order to afford it, he agrees to do a favor for his estranged sister. Unfortunately, she hardly has time say "my cousin's husband has a gambling debt" before the husband is dead, and the finger is pointed at Beckett. Tough, inventive, and a tad self-absorbed, Beckett is a guy we would love to hang out with (it doesn't hurt that "Philip Beckett" is one of the greatest private-eye names ever). The wealthy guy who solves crimes as a diversion from a life of idleness isn't a new idea--the list runs at least from Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey to TV's Banacek--but Cray, the pseudonym for a "well-known mystery writer who lives in New York City," takes the premise in various new directions all at once. The book is just a whole lot of fun; let's hope there are plenty more to come. David Pitt
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Book Description Carroll & Graf, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110786714409
Book Description Carroll & Graf, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0786714409