A Dead Ringer
By Al Stevens
Private investigator Stan Bentworth is almost killed by a drive by shooting. Later, he learns a man who looked very similar in appearance was killed. Thus opens up a new case forDelbertFalls’ most famous (or is that infamous) PI. The widow hires Stan to find her husband’s killer. Suspicion falls upon a pair of stepsons who run an Internet video company. Action and danger follow Stan throughout as he gathers evidence on the stepsons while also dealing with a gang of house thieves. What he learns, however, will change his view of family life.
Stevens’ second Bentworth novel doesn’t have as much of a whodunit like quality as the first. He does a nice job of re-introducing the characters to first time readers. I wasn’t sure about the subplot but it did add some action and intrigue and a tie in with the first novel. This is a little more intricate but still harkens back to detective stories of yore.
StanleyBentworth: Private investigator inDelbert Falls,Maryland. Former homicide investigator. Divorced. Wears a Mickey Mouse watch. Likes bourbon and cigarettes. Witty repartee. Named his gun Roscoe. Drives a station wagon. Parents dead.
Willa: Stan’s secretary. Fifites, very thin, gray hair, wears square rimmed glasses. Efficient worker. Likes to razz Stan about his problems. Widow.
Rodney: Stan’s nephew. Computer whiz. Tall, gangly.
Bunny: 40’s, pretty, waitress, Stan’s on again/off again boyfriend. Has a son.
Amanda Bentworth: 36, Stan’s sister, Rodney’s mother. Keeps getting into bad relationships with men.
Georgia Farley: pretty, recently widowed. Was on her second marriage.
Sanford: skinny, always wears black, black hair and eyes, enigmatic, loner, Stan’s troubleshooter, formerPhiladelphiacriminal attorney
Many of the same characters as in Stevens’ first book with a nice continuation of the personalities. Rodney is showing signs of maturation in personality and demeanor. It wasn’t too confusing, but normally you wouldn’t see two characters in the same book with the same name. Both Stan’s ex partner and one ofGeorgia’s stepsons are both named Bill, although the latter is always referred to as Billy. I enjoyed the return ofSanford. Also Stan stays true to the old fashioned detective by constantly noticing beautiful women.
Fairly distinctive voices. Not too long conversations.
Similar to the first Bentworth detective story, a few instances of profanity. First person from Stan’s POV. In the first novel, I enjoyed the repetitive attempts of Stan to quit drinking and smoking. This time it’s his struggle to put together information to develop a website. Stan crosses the legal line a few times but still comes away clean. There are some fun scenes although I would have liked to have seen a little more tension in the action scenes. This one stays within a couple of strokes of being on par with the first book so I can consider an equal ranking of: