Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dave Brandstetter Is Back on the Job

When Adam Streeter, a famous foreign correspondent, is found shot to death in his study, it appears to be an open and shut case. The cops rule it a suicide and Streeter's blind seventeen-year-old daughter, Chrissie, who was in the house at the time, reluctantly agrees.

The Banner Insurance Company, which had insured Streeter's life, sends ace death-claims investigator Dave Brandstetter to check into the case, although why they do so is not exactly clear. If Streeter's death stands as a suicide, Banner will not have to pay the death claim, so one would think that they would not want to risk rocking the boat. But, of course, if Banner didn't send Dave to check things out, there wouldn't be any book.

Brandstetter is charmed by the daughter, Chrissie, who does not want to believe that her father killed himself, even though he apparently did. But within minutes of arriving on the scene, Dave begins to see problems with the police theory: There are a couple of broken flower pots that would suggest that an intruder was on the scene; the neighbors closest to the Streeter condo and who had an excellent view of the study in which Streeter died, have suddenly and uncharacteristically decided to take a vacation. Most important, all of the notes and other materials related to Adam Streeter's current project seem to be missing.

Streeter was investigating the turbulent situation in Los Inocentes, a Central American country where rebels are challenging the government. The rebels claim that the government is using death squads to target its opponents; the government claims that the rebels are communists, and the U.S. government is covertly attempting to support the government. (This book was published in 1986 at a time when there was a great deal of controversy about the Regan administration's efforts to combat alleged communist elements in Central America, especially in Nicaragua.)

Dave demonstrates early on that Streeter was actually murdered and the cops arrest a suspect. Banner Insurance declares the case closed since it's now clear that they will have to pay up. But Dave won't give it up; he thinks the cops are still on the wrong track. This angers Dave's lover, Cecil, who is upset becase Dave insists on putting himself in grave danger, rather than walking away from the case.

"Cecil reached for Dave, but Dave stepped back. 'Dave, why are you doing this? You're not getting paid. Lovejoy called you off the case. You want the truth? You're compulsive. You can't leave it alone. You're like Adam Streeter, you know that? You live for danger.'

'I live for justice," Dave said.'"

This exchange summarizes the approach that will guide Dave Brandstetter through all of the books that constitute this series. Like all of the others, this one is very well-written, with sharply defined characters and a carefully drawn setting. The plot in this one is a bit far-fetched and the climax requires a huge suspension of disbelief, which is why I'm giving the book three stars instead of four. But still, it's a very good read. and those readers who have enjoyed other books in the Brandstetter series will certainly want to find this one.

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