The Highly Effective Detective

Shove on over, Columbo. There's a new detective who can out-shlub even the most rumpled private eye. Teddy Ruzak, police-academy dropout and disciple of Encyclopedia Brown and Sherlock Holmes, is an overweight security guard who uses his inheritance to fulfill his dream of becoming a detective. He's so naive that he doesn't even know he needs a license to operate, and so good-hearted that no mystery fan will be able to resist his shambling sincerity. He hires his favorite waitress to be his receptionist and sets up shop above a dry cleaner's in Knoxville, Tenn. Teddy's first client brings him a true case of injustice: a hit-and-run accident – involving a family of goslings. (The fact that author Richard Yancey restrains himself to one "murder most fowl" joke speaks well of him.)

But as Teddy aimlessly wanders after clues, and Felicia spends the rest of his inheritance redecorating him, herself, and the office, the dead baby geese seem to point to more serious misdeeds. Yancey ("Confessions of a Tax Collector") gives Teddy a touch of Don Quixote-style nobility, and then throws in verbal set pieces reminiscent of Abbott & Costello. The sunny tone of the earlier chapters gradually darkens, until readers are genuinely concerned about Teddy making it out with his health and ideals intact. Because to be deprived of a sequel would be a real crime. Grade: A–

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