by Pat Browning
Review of mystery novel The Faltese Malcolm by Peter E. Abresch. Instructions on how to enter for a chance to win a copy of The Faltese Malcom at the end of this review.
It’s the Christmas season and all Joshua Punch wants is a warm place to sleep. That, and his $8,000. He’s been kicked off his boat and he’s flat broke. A big wheel named Mr. Buckeys is out of town and Joshua, who works for Kar-Parks, has the keys to his Mercedes and townhouse. One of Buckeys’ companies owes Joshua $8,000 for a mural he painted, so helping himself to a week’s free rent doesn’t seem unreasonable.
There’s one small problem. In his haste to get to the airport Buckeys leaves a briefcase in the Mercedes. Joshua takes it into the townhouse in case someone comes looking for it. Someone does show up, riding upstairs in an elevator. The last thing Joshua remembers is the elevator door opening and a stranger’s fist coming his way.
One minute Joshua Punch is roaming through a townhouse in Washington, D.C. The next minute he’s lying on a hotel ledge in San Francisco. It’s 1927 and he’s not dreaming. He’s time traveling. He falls from the ledge, smashes into a balcony and wakes up back in Buckeys’ townhouse. Cautiously checking out the place, he finds that someone has placed a second, identical briefcase in the closet.
An urgent call from a buddy at Kar-Parks alerts Joshua that two big ugly dudes are looking for the Mercedes. Joshua drives it to the parking garage where they’re waiting for him. When they don’t find the briefcases in the car they punch him. Pow! He’s right back in 1927 San Francisco. He’s a P.I. named S. Paid. He has a partner named Bowman, a secretary named Effie, and a rich, sexy client named Miss Marvel.
This story is a riff on Dashiell Hammett’s famous 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon, starring a PI named Sam Spade. Familiarity with Hammett’s book adds to enjoyment of The Faltese Malcom. As Joshua bounces back and forth between past and present, the author brings 1927 San Francisco to life: cars with running boards, Underwood manual typewriters, no drivers’ licenses, no credit cards, no Social Security numbers, the clothes and the colorful slang of those days.
Bouncing back and forth, Joshua gets caught in a 1927 gangsters’ war involving money and “oyster berries” (pearls smuggled from Shanghai), the famous Maltese Falcon and the equally coveted Faltese Malcom. Surviving hails of bullets and double-crosses, he romances two different women on separate ends of an 80-year time bridge. There are a couple of wonderful twists at the end, making this a fun read for a foggy winter night.
To enter to win a copy of The Faltese Malcolm, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Peter’s Book”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen next Saturday.