It might be easy to find fault with P.G. Sturges’ debut book, the comic crime novel Shortcut Man. I’ve seen at least one review complaining about the slightness of the book and the derivativeness of the plot. The sex scenes (plenty) might push away a few readers. Sturges does prove prone to a swift and disorienting point-of-view shift or a sudden insertion of information that ultimately has no bearing on the story at hand. And yet….
And yet when I sat down to write the review just published by AARP, I found that any small reservations were simply wiped away by the novel’s brisk momentum, its infectious enthusiasm, and the way that Sturges just keeps bounding ahead with such pluck and (as a fellow reviewer mentioned in an email exchange) brio. Shortcut Man strikes me as a more-than-solid debut and (hopefully) a strong start to a new series of darkly comic mysteries, and I’d frankly be surprised if most readers aren’t ultimately won over as well.
Here’s a quick excerpt from my take on the book:
The set-up here is classic film-noir nastiness, replete with a breathtaking femme fatale. [Title character] Dick [Henry] is hired by “erotica” producer Artie Benjamin to find out whether Artie’s wife, Judy, is cheating on him — no names or photos, please, just a simple yes or a no. The job seems easy enough until Dick lays eyes on Judy: She’s a dead ringer for his own current fling, a frisky stewardess named Lynnette. Indeed, Judy is Lynnette — and suddenly Dick Henry is investigating himself. Complications ensue when Artie’s “I just need to know” escalates into ever-more-pressing requests, with correspondingly zany fallout — film noir verging on dark screwball comedy.