Wayzata by Ted Korsmo

Wayzata by Ted Korsmo
Publisher: John Edward Korsmo
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Full Length (178 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

A detective. A Millionaire. A Millionaire’s wife. A mistress.

Hijinks and tragedy ensue.

Set in the late 1930’s, our yarn is set in the rural, resort suburb of Minneapolis. Detective Carroll LaRue has quit his badge, picked up stakes and put a haunted past in Hollywood behind him — after all, his fellow officers on the LAPD kept mistaking him for a perp. LaRue exchanges the hilltop lifestyle and orange groves for a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth existence in the blue-gray Midwest. Taking photos through windows, even if the people aren’t movie stars? It might not be sexy, but it’s a living.

“Wayzata” pays homage — hell, it outright steals — from the great writers of pulp fiction: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James V. Cain; an intricate, convoluted mystery story full of seedy characters and dialogue sharp enough that you just may have to read a sentence over once or twice to get it. Funny, tough, with short chapters built to be read in airports. And check it: when the movie comes out you can say, “Hey, I read that when it was a book.”

Sure you did, smart guy.

Many mystery fans has a love for the old detectives from the 1930’s and 40’s. This author is obviously a fan, a person that has a respect for the hardboiled detective, the pulps, and this novel is a like a homage to those by gone days.

Carroll LaRue finds himself a long way from the glitz of Los Angles, where he was in law enforcement. Wayzata , Minnesota is where LaRue hangs his hat and works as a private detective. He is hired by the wife of a millionaire to keep tabs on the woman she believes may be having an affair with her husband. This is oldest job there is for a detective, but LaRue finds himself embroiled in a mess of frame ups, cover ups, deceit, adultery, greed, and of course murder.

This novel is set in the late 1930’s when millionaires were not as commonplace as today. But, the mindset is still the same… everyone wants a piece of the pie, especially the ladies, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the money. LaRue gets sucked into their vortex as he tried to solve the mystery of what makes these people tick. There were some interesting twist, and some surprising double crosses.

A few things didn’t quite work for me. While it is obvious the author is attempting to mimic the works of someone like James M. Cain, and I believe this was done with his heart in the right place, this is a super ambitious undertaking, especially for a first novel, so it didn’t quite pull off the dark, sleek, edgy atmosphere it was trying to accomplish. At times it became more of a parody ,which I am sure is hard to avoid if you are purposely trying to emulate a specific genre or sub- genre. At this point I do want to add that I was under the impression the book was categorized under “ Noir” and for the record, noir is similar to hardboiled fiction, but protagonist is not a detective.

The other issue I had was a plot hole involving the divorce laws of the period. Some things had lightened up a little in the late 30’s, but it was still uncommon to divorce and it was big deal, I mean HUGE. This part of the story wasn’t all that plausible, not for present day, and certainly not in that time frame.

But plenty of the story did work for me. For a first novel I thought this book was very well organized and planned out. The dialogue was true to the period and didn’t lapse into using modern terms and phrases. The story was compelling and was an interesting look into the dark recesses of human nature. This author does have talent and it’s exciting to that. Despite the critiques I mentioned earlier I was truly impressed with the effort. I think a little professional editing and some research for authenticity is all this book needed to give it a nudge up the leader board. Hardboiled and pulp fiction is very hard to pull off. Too much one way or the other can make a mess of the whole thing, but this was an admirable job overall.

Overall, this is a good book and I do recommend it to lovers of historical mystery and detective novels. I enjoyed the book and appreciate the author’s ability to reprise a by gone era. I happened to love Noir, Pulps, and detective novels from the 30’s and 40’s. I have an extensive vintage paperback collection of books from this time era and I still enjoy reading them.

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