Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise - A.E. Maxwell

First Line: "Like the rich, California is different."

Fiddler is a P.I. who once played the violin. He will still do anything for his ex-wife Fiora. They both love each other but learned they couldn't live together as husband and wife. Now they are "friends with occasional benefits." So, when Customs agents pay Fiora a visit concerning her twin brother, Danny, Fiora calls on Fiddler to help her find out just what kind of trouble Danny's gotten himself into this time. As they begin to investigate Danny's business dealings in computer chips, they find that Danny has problems with more than just the Feds.

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE is the first book in the Fiddler and Fiora series, and it is fun. One of my favorite parts about this book is the deft manner in which the A.E. Maxwell writing team weaves music into the book. They give the standard P.I. novel a unique twist. Analogies and metaphors pepper Fiddler's dialogue and thoughts throughout the book:
"For an instant [Fiora] leaned against me, something she rarely did. Any doubts about whether I was going to play first violin in this mad orchestra vanished as I felt Fiora's weight against my hip. If Dannyboy was going to play a tragic concert, for once in his life he would play a solo, not a duet for twins."
The writing in this novel hooked me. There's smart humor blended with the emotional struggles of the characters. I think in this particular novel, they probably did a better job of developing Fiddler than they did Fiora, and I was a tad bit disappointed in the "damsel in distress" motif that made its way into the plot. But, JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE was originally published in 1985, so I'll give them a bit of leeway on that one. Especially considering scenes like this one:

"He slipped down into first, double-clutching with the speed that only came from experience. He stabbed the accelerator, burned through first and into second with a speed that flattened us against the seats. The Cobra rose up on its shocks as the engine went from throaty to nasal roar. The front end dipped for an instant again when Volker executed his remarkably smooth power shift into third. The Cobra's weight snapped onto the back wheels again as we accelerated.

Cars appeared in front of us like still photos glued to a concrete page. The world divided, flowing by us on either side in a multicolored stream as we went past one hundred mph. At that moment there was nothing I wanted more than a second Cobra. Nevada was a mountain range away, roads straight and empty, country made by a God who loved raw power almost as much as Carroll Shelby had."
I'm not a car enthusiast, but this scene makes me feel their excursion and the excitement of it. I understand why Volker and Fiddler love the Cobra and the speed. When a writer can connect with someone who doesn't already have that passion, that's great writing.

The novel does reflect the time period it was written in, but that doesn't detract from the book at all. And quite frankly, it shouldn't detract. Great art imitates life. Throughout time, great works have been reflections of the time and place they were written. JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE reflects California in the 1980s. It's funny with a complex plot, unique twist and characters I definitely want to visit again.

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE was originally published by Doubleday in 1985; it was re-issued in trade paper (ISBN: 978-0-9792709-6-3) by Busted Flush Press in 2009.

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Jen Forbus May 12, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
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Gail May 20, 2010 at 2:55 AM  

If I remember correctly, this writing team is Elizabeth Lowell and her husband, yes?

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