Title: A few minutes past midnight
Author: Stuart M. Kaminsky
Publisher: Orion Paperbacks
Toby Peters, private eye for the rich and famous in Hollywood, gets assigned to a new case by no one else than star actor Charlie Chaplin. Charlie best known as his character The Tramp: a well-mannered humorous little guy with a black bowler hat and a walking cane.
Charlie Chaplin has hired Mr. Peters to find the man who visited his house last night. The man delivered a clear warning message to Mr. Chaplin not to continue with his recent movie idea ‘The Lady Killer’ and that he’d better leave Fiona Sullivan alone or else face the consequences. Detective Toby Peters immediately follows his only lead given to him by the dark visitor of Charlie Chaplin himself. After calling every F. Sullivan he can detect in the yellow pages and finding himself none the wiser it’s just by sheer luck that his landlady knows the woman. At Fiona Sullivan’s house there are some disturbing newspaper clippings of several death announcements found. They bring to light that the strange man is a women killing nutshell. In other words a Lady Killer who has to be stopped.
With the assistance of his eccentric mix of friends, neighbors and older brother, who conveniently is the chief of the local police station, Toby’s investigation continues.
Stuart M. Kaminsky gives you the chance, through A few minutes past midnight, to experience an exciting Hollywood crime investigation during the golden years of the movie industry. A few minutes past midnight isn’t really what I usually read, but surprisingly enough I liked it. Kaminsky’s writing style makes you really feel like you are in the fifties. You get to know what was hot in those times, how much money was worth and there are several occasions where you can read about WWII’s effect on America.
What I like the best of A few minutes past Midnight are the colorful characters. Each of them are different in their way, but they fit really well together as a group. To begin with the star of this book, well the actual star, actor Charlie Chaplin. In the fifties Charlie Chaplin was found among celebs like Fred Astaire, Brigitte Bardot and James Dean. Kaminsky portraits Charlie Chaplin not only as an actor, but also as a real human being who is naturally funny and cool. The main character inspector Toby Peters is an older man with a divorce behind him and is now living in a room rented by a nosy landlady. His friends are beyond doubt the reason that Toby still has work. Toby asks their help numerous times, he certainly can’t handle an investigation on his own, but lucky for him they don’t mind to assist him. The group of friends are an odd bunch: a care free dentist not to be trusted, a poet built as a bouncer, a fortune-teller who only sees partial incoherent pieces of the future and a dwarf-sized friend with a perfect aim. The character I especially enjoyed was the uncanny landlady who is deaf when she likes to be.
The investigation for the Lady Killer is exciting to read. The twists and turns provide for a lot of tension in the story (and the always pointed classic guns help too). The biggest surprise was almost at the end of the story, when you find out that all was not what it seemed to be.
A few minutes past midnight receives a well-deserved 4 stars.