Long Gone Man
by Phyllis Smallman
The year is 1994. Singer Brown wanders the country in her old van, singing on street corners for money to survive. As the story opens, we find Singer has some business to clear up with the John Vibald, leader of the band to which she once belonged. However, after negotiating a treacherous mountain road on an island off the coast of Vancouver, she discovers John has been murdered. And there are no lack of suspects: His much younger wife, the wife’s lawyer lover, other band members who are living on the island and hoping for a comeback, or is it someone connected to a land development deal John was holding up? Slowly, the truth is revealed not only to Singer, but to the local police. Of course, that only leaves Singer in that much more danger.
A murder mystery set in on an island off Canada. Interesting. A homeless singing not-an-investigator investigator. Different. The unique character of Singer first attracted me to the book. I wasn’t too sure about the unraveling of the plot, but it works to some extent.
Singer Brown: Not her real name, 46, homeless, drives and lives in a yellow 1984 Dodge Caravan, plays a guitar and sings to make money, smokes, graying hair past shoulder length,
Lauren Vibald: 28, long, sculpted face, hazel eyes black brows, long mahogany colored hair, husband was murdered, owns a poodle, adopted, drives a black Yukon, both parents were medical people
Aaron ‘Pinky’ Pye: band member with Lauren’s husband, constantly tardy, sparse gray hair, flushed face, pear shaped build, wife is an alcoholic, has a son
Steven David: early fifties, blue eyes, also known as Stevie Dee, played drums and did vocals for the band, violent temper,helps with local theater,
Chris Ruston: mid thirties, tan, blond, good looking but overweight, lawyer, had an affair with Lauren, sails, golfs, father was a lawyer
Duncan: Corporal for the RCMP, 5’8”, ice blue eyes, short curly blonde hair
Louis Wilmot: late forties, slim, blue eyes, hair graying at the temples, Sergeant for the RCMP, was with the Major Crimes unit in Vancouver, on the force for 23 years,
Lauren was a character I couldn’t get a hold on. One minutes she’s tough, the next she’s wishy-washy, the next she’s nonchalant. I can’t chalk it all up to shock at her husband’s death. Although I liked Singer, I wanted more punch from her. A bit of depth is provided when I learn about why she’s on the island. Actually, I liked the two investigating officers best.
Pretty good. Again, Lauren’s dialogue was hard to comprehend in the terms of any given situation. Not that I couldn’t understand her words, but the reason for her attitude and personality shift was difficult. At times she sounded like Singer and I wanted her to keep her own voice. The cops have some good back and forth play and even though Wilmot wants to be back on the mainland, he is dedicated to his job.
Relatively short chapters. Some profanity. I liked the cliffhangers at the end of some of the chapters. I guess I wanted more from Singer. It’s a Singer Brown mystery, but the cops seem to play a bigger role in solving the crime. Singer comes up with some good deductions and suggestions, but I wanted to see her featured more. At the beginning, there was a lot of build up with no explanation. That bothered me at first because the book jumps right in to this crazy mountain scene, almost like it’s the middle of the book. Upon reflection, it was okay because Smallman teases with the truth through a lot of the book. Some good descriptions of the setting brought me into the scenes. Although it’s been done countless times, I don’t mind the Nero-Wolfe-bringing-the-suspects-together-in-one-room type of climax. Singer is a cool character with the potential to really shine in future novels.
Phyllis Smallman’s first novel, Margarita Nights, won the inaugural Unhanged Author award from the Crime Writers of Canada. Her work has appeared in both Spinetingler Magazine and Omni Mystery Magazine and she has received two awards for her short stories. The Florida Writer’s Association shortlisted Champagne for Buzzards as the best Florida book for 2012. Long Gone Man is her 6th book.