Monday 21 August 2017



This debut entry in the author's mystery series features actor-turned private investigator Stanley Hastings. Poor Stanley! In a word, his pursuits end in FAILURE. So when Martin Albrecht comes to him with a case for a real detective, Stanley turns him away. Unfortunately, Stanley's damned path leads to his finding Albrecht dead. Well now he's been challenged, so he has to take the case; maybe Stanley will finally prove that he's a real detective. To solve this case Stanley must descend into the modern-day inferno that consists of drugs and mob operations. Will he come out of it alive... A first novel from Parnell Hall, playwright and screenwriter, and actor, introduces erstwhile detective Stanley Hastings who, while engaged in phony detective work in aid of an insurance swindle, stumbles into his first real case. This is the author's first novel and the initial book in his now lengthy series featuring this Manhattan-based detective, a most unusual private eye. When an almost client turns up dead, this PI goes into an underworld of coke and kicks among the Big Boys of Miami and New York, taking the kind of risks that can get a guy real dead - real fast.

Read last December and really enjoyed. If I had more time and money and less existing books on the TBR pile I'd happily hoover up the entire 25-odd long series.

A few scrambled thoughts, which hardly do the book justice.....

Our man Stanley Hastings during the course of the novel, proves himself to be a real detective having had no notion of being one at the start. He's more of an ambulance chaser, signing up victims of accidents so that his company can sue for damages.

A man mistakes Hastings for a real detective and wants his help. He's a gambler and in over his head. Victim of some crooked games, he's now moving drugs for the mob, only he's been shaving the loads and is in bigger trouble than before. Hastings gives him the bum's rush, but when the man is murdered soon after, he feels compelled to look into things.

I really liked how the story unfolded, Hastings going from A to B to C, all the while counting the pennies and pretending to his wife and employer that he is just going about his daily business. Money is tight in the Hastings household and every dollar counts.

Great writing.....

"......I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag. The most dangerous thing I do is go into some pretty undesirable neighborhoods to interview prospective clients. I don’t like it. I always feel as if I have a sign saying “mug me” on my back. Actually, I’ve never had a problem. People who see me going into slums and housing projects figure I’m either a cop or I’m out of my mind, and they leave me alone. That’s what I do. And that’s all I do. You’re the first person who’s ever asked me to do anything else.” 

I stopped talking. He looked at me. He’d been looking at me the whole time I was talking, and his expression didn’t change when I stopped. He just kept looking at me. It was hard to read his expression. He looked a little like a steer must when it’s just been hit over the head with a sledgehammer at the slaughterhouse. Incredulous. Disbelieving. But something else, too. He blinked his eyes. His lips moved, but nothing came out. Then he said, almost in awe, “You’re useless.” He shook his head. “Jesus Christ, you’re absolutely useless, aren’t you.” 

He got to his feet as if in a daze and started for the door, still shaking his head. “Useless,” he muttered. He opened the door and went out. The door closed behind him. 

A book with a bit of everything - story, pace, character, setting, drugs, the mob, humour. A tick in every box.

Hall presents Hastings with an intriguing dilemna at the end of the book, a real sea-change moment which could alter the course of his life for ever - a car crash moment. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at his choice.

A light read, but the ending haunted me for ages afterwards.

5 from 5

Parnell Hall also has another 20 book long series to his name - Puzzle Lady.

Read in December, 2016
Published - 1987
Page count - 231
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle


  1. This is a series I've not tried before, Col, but it sounds like a really interesting one. And I do like the way the character seems to evolve over the course of the story. Intriguing...

    1. I do think you might enjoy this author Margot. Maybe not all 25 or so, but one or two if you find time. I really did like it.

  2. Wonderful, Glen likes this series a lot, he has read a few of them and is always looking for more from the series. I have only read the first one, and liked it also. Margot should definitely read this book.

    1. I believe it was Glen who tipped me off to the series and recommended it. Unlike with William Marshall I exercised a bit of restraint and only bought one or two.
      I'm happy to see you twisting Margot's arm also! I do think she would enjoy it.

    2. So glad you read and enjoyed the first of the Stanley Hastings novels. I believe I have read four so far. Want to spread out the series and savor them.

    3. Thanks for the recommendation Glen. I will read more of it one day, but don't anticipate too many - I've too many books already.

  3. Am off to find, well enjoyed, long ago reads of Parnell Hall books..there must be, to memory, in my possession, at least a dozen books ..thank you for reminder..

    1. Lucky you KT! I'm glad to have been of service. I've checked my kindle and I have the 3rd and the 5th in the series. Internal debate going on over whether to get the second entry!

  4. I'm sure I read one of this series a long time ago. Your enthusiasm for it is contagious...

  5. Col – I already like the main character. Thanks.

    1. I liked this one myself, but was surprised that the author had kind of escaped my attention for the past 20 years or so.