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
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Westlake's done some good stuff, Col. I'm glad you thought this one was a solid read. And it's interesting how the format can impact what you think of a book. It's good to hear the audio narration worked for you in this case.ReplyDelete
Solid but not spectacular and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that Margot. I think my main issue with audio is if you switch off for a few seconds it's kind of hard to reset your position without re-living a bigger portion of the book than was actually missed. Whereas its easy enough to flick back a page or so.Delete
For some reason I just don't get on with audiobooks (my mind wanders; attention span of a gnat), although my wife loves them.ReplyDelete
(Hm. My spellchecker thinks "audiobooks" should be "studbooks." Interesting . . .)
I recall The Busy Body with affection. As you say, it's not Westlake at his best; even so, I liked it I think more than you did -- a 4-star read rather than a 3.5.
I'm with you regarding audio, after a while I stop paying attention. That said I've listened to a second one over the past couple of days and may well try my luck with a third, though it's about 15 hours long which might not be easy to work into my routine.Delete
Looking back maybe it was worth a four, nothing really to bump me out of it I don't think. Maybe I'm an old sourpuss.
I got a few books by Westlake at the book sale but this was not one of them. I still haven't even tried audio. It has no appeal as of yet but maybe someday.ReplyDelete
I have about 5 audio books on my laptop and I'm trying to get through them all and take advantage of the time when I can listen while doing other chores. Looking forward to your post on your acquisitions.Delete
Col, I have tried audio books though I just can't seem to adjust to having someone read out to me. It's a mindset. I must listen to one with an open mind.ReplyDelete
Yeah, it's a fairly new experience for me and one which takes a bit of getting used to.Delete
Col – I listen to audio books all the time, usually in the car on long drives. Political books or memoirs read by the authors can be very good. Some novels work if the prose is not too dense and the reader is good. A poor or annoying reader can ruin what would otherwise be a good audio book. The best were the Harry Potter books read by actor Jim Dale.ReplyDelete
I think this was the third one I've tried, (subsequently another one and a half afterwards), I'm getting more used to the format. I doubt I'll become a full-on convert.Delete