Friday, 28 September 2018
DONALD E. WESTLAKE - THE BUSY BODY (1966)
Al Engel had worked his way up to being Nick Rovito's right-hand man, near the top of the syndicate. And this was a delicate job that Rovito had given him: retrieving a very important jacket, loaded with heroin, from the fresh grave of the drug mule who was accidentally buried wearing it. Rovito ordered Engel to go to the grave in the early hours of the morning, dig up the coffin, and get back the suit - plus kill two birds with one stone (so to speak) and whack the guy who would help with the digging. There was just one problem (at least - just one to begin with): It turned out the grave was empty. Suddenly Engel was the one finding himself in deep. Busy Body is early Westlake, as he was mastering the genre he would become known for: the comic caper.
Narrator - Brian Holsopple
I have enjoyed a few Westlake novels over the years, mostly more hard-boiled fare with Parker his professional criminal as protagonist from Westlake's alter-ego Richard Stark than the lighter, comic novels Westlake put out under his own name.
The Busy Body is a mid-60s offering from Westlake and a New York caper. It was a different experience for me on this occasion - having a book read to me, as opposed to reading a book. It's not my preferred format, but actually worked for me on this occasion as I could listen to the dulcet tones of Brian Holsopple (never heard of him before, but he's very good), while working on a Saturday morning in a slightly less frenetic work environment.
Our main plot involves a mob man, Al Engel initially attempting a spot of grave-robbing to recover $250k worth of Mafia drugs which have been inadvertently buried with the courier who died of a heart attack. We have an empty grave and Engel is tasked by his master, Nick Rovito with tracking down the missing suit ergo drugs and who the hell cares about the missing corpse?
Amateur investigation, a dead undertaker, a mysterious women dogging Engel, a dogged and honest detective also with Al in his sights, an unhappy mob boss, a grieving widow, an irritating mother, an annoyed girlfriend, a crappy car, a taxi ride or two, some crooked businessmen, another mob corpse, a gun with prints, a frame up, and a whole other scam going down with Engel a convenient patsy. Unless of course he can straighten things out.
Pace - reasonable, setting - 60s New York which worked for me, plot - interesting, main character - capable and sympathetic, resolution - satisfactory.
Enjoyable, inoffensive, entertaining, I'll probably remember it longer because of the format it was digested in than if it was an old 60s or later tatty paperback that I turned the pages over.
Probably not his strongest ever book but it was okay for me.
3.5 from 5
Read (ok listened to) - September, 2018
Published - 1966 (2012 recording)
Page count - about 179 (5 hours 32 minutes listening time)
Source - Audible download when on a free trial
Format - audio book on laptop and iPhone