Carioca Fletch - Gregory McDonald (1984)

The Fletch series of books runs to nine novels, this book, Carioca Fletch, is the seventh. The writing style in all the books is rather odd, and it may take the usual reader a little while to both figure out what makes it odd and to warm to it. Essentially, McDonald eschews the usual literary devices of internal monologue or extended passages describing a character's thoughts or rationales. In some ways, the books read more like plays than novels. It is a little disconcerting.

The lack of insight into the interior life of the characters makes it a little hard to warm to them (a problem avoided in drama, usually, since an actor is there to interpret for you), although it does paradoxically render them more realistic since we rarely find ourselves privy to the thoughts of other people in real life. This asks more of the reader, then, since they must provide the interpretation themselves.

That said, the characters are interesting and appealing. The plot in Carioca Fletch is rather bizarre, more so than most of the Fletch books. Fletch is in Brazil where an old woman claims that he is her murdered husband back from the dead to expose his killer. How Fletch would or could solve a murder forty years old is an interesting puzzle and the resolution hinges on McDonald's use and understanding of the psychology of his characters - just because he doesn't share their inner life with us does not mean that they don't have one. The resolution is, ultimately, quite satisfying.

I heartily encourage readers, especially mystery fans, to try a Fletch novel, although this one might not be the best first choice. If the style appeals, read others, if it doesn't give the rest of the series a miss.

Overall Grade: B

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