I enjoyed the writing in My Darling Detective. The characters had dimension and the situations were funny and sad and unusual. But I felt a bit let down at the end. I guess I was expecting an unexpected revelation or surprise that never came.
Howard Norman's novels always offer an unusual premise and off-beat characters. With "My Darling Detective" set in 1970s Halifax, this is most entertainingly realized in the sweet, quirky relationship between library science student Jacob and police detective Martha. Their romance is enhanced by listening to broadcasts of a 1940s detective radio series. The central plot revolves around Jacob's mother Nora, a former Halifax librarian currently hospitalized for mental health reasons, and her possible connection to the suspect in a crime Martha is investigating. Martha befriends Nora and through her Jacob learns that what he thought he knew about his mother's life has been all wrong. I did not find the noir aspect of the plot to be especially effective, and was somewhat dismayed that Jacob (who is the narrator) maintains a distance from his mother's distress; leaving the female characters to do the heavy emotional lifting. I found myself thinking the book would have been more interesting with Martha as narrator, rather than Jacob. And this relatively short novel is packed with subplots that veer in many different directions without enhancing the main story.
Don't waste your time.
This is 4.5 stars. An interesting, unusual story that incorporates elements of crime noir with an interesting backstory from WWII. Norman's writing is spare but effective with humor and pathos along the way. I especially enjoyed the two detective partners of Martha and their witty repartee, even laughing out loud at times. But there is a serious tone to the writing too. Norman manages to incorporate art history, library science, crime work and antisemitism into this page turner. I will definitely be reading more of his works. Highly recommended!
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