|Michael Z. Lewin: Family Planning|
Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardback), ISBN 0-312-24391-X
The Lunghi family (who did very little planning) collectively own and run the Lunghi Detective Agency. But as far as I could tell, the Lunghis do more eating than worrying about detecting. Without exception, everyone in the family, from the Old Man to young Davey works on his or her own agenda, and the narrative leaps back and forth between the characters quickly enough to cause whiplash in the unwary.
There was a murder, but it happened ten years ago and doesn't appear to affect the story very much. (Honestly, I couldn't even tell whether anyone ever solved the case.) The cast includes some interesting -- no, make that bizarre characters. You get to meet a saliva therapist named Heather and the Dirty Girls, not to mention the entire Lunghi clan, their in-laws, the younger generation, their significant others and their clients.
I have read, and enjoyed, stream of consciousness novels, Russian novels, and some experimental novels. I even enjoyed Family Planning -- but not as a mystery. When I read a book labeled mystery, I really would like to find some of the standard mystery ingredients: a mystery or two, some sleuthing, some deductions, some investigation and some answers at the end. If any those things surfaced anywhere in Family Planning, I missed them entirely, except for a couple of times when the family's intrepid detective did some work off-stage, then reported back to the group.
Did I like the book? Yes. Would I recommend it as a mystery? Absolutely not.
Patricia White is the Sapphire Award-winning author of A Wizard Scorned. Her current book, the western Edwina Parkhurst, Spinster, is available from Hard Shell Word Factory.
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