My friend Clifford Fausset recommended this book to me, otherwise I might not have ever heard of it. The author, Rex Anderson, isn’t what you’d call prolific. LAWNMOWER BLUES, which was published in 2005, appears to be only the fourth novel in his career, which began with COVER HER WITH ROSES in 1969. But based on reading this one, I really need to go back and find those other three books.
LAWNMOWER BLUES is a medium-boiled private eye novel. Tony Aapt is a young Houstonian who inherited the agency from his grandfather. Tony’s trying to make a go of it in the security business but also handles more traditional PI work, mostly divorce cases. Then a barmaid at the watering hole Tony frequents wins the lottery and decides to hire him to investigate the murder of her husband. The problem is, the woman’s husband evidently committed suicide, and it happened more than thirty years earlier.
Tony takes the job and begins to investigate anyway, and sure enough, he starts to believe that maybe the guy really was murdered. Turns out there’s a motive worth millions of dollars, and some other things happen that make Tony think somebody – the real killer, maybe? – doesn’t want him to find out the truth.
This is a pretty standard private eye novel plot, and to be honest, it probably could have used another twist or two. However, what really makes LAWNMOWER BLUES worth reading is some wonderful writing. The first-person narration is fast and breezy and pretty funny in places, and Anderson does a great job with the setting (although I’m no expert on Houston, having been there exactly twice in the past fifty years). He also populates this novel with a multitude of eccentric, vividly drawn characters, none of them better than Tony himself. Smart, funny, flawed, and persistent, driven by a moral code that he struggles with, the reader can’t help but like him and root for him.
All that combines to make LAWNMOWER BLUES a top-notch novel that I really enjoyed. Highly recommended. (And if Anderson wants to bring Tony back in another novel, that would be just fine with me.)