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Ask the Right Question by Michael Z. Lewin
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Ask the Right Question (1971)

by Michael Z. Lewin

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I first found Lewin through a series of short stories, most of which involved a family detective agency in Bath England. Shortly thereafter two books were released in that series. Both of which I rated quite highly, one 4.60, the other 5 whole stars out of 5. I was somewhat reluctant to slide into other books written by him. I didn’t want be disappointed. I would have leapt on and devoured another Lunghi Family book, but no third book appeared. Maybe if Lewin had other books set in England I might have reluctantly tested the water, but the Indianapolis author’s other two series were set in Indianapolis, and both had first books that were published in the 1970s. Twenty years before the Lunghi Family series.

Finally I acquired the first book in the Albert Samson series and gave it a chance. If the Edgar Award nomination for first novel is correct I would be jumping from his last adult series to his very first book (he had one or more young adult books appear after the second Lunghi family book).

The book started off interesting enough. Albert Samson puttering around his office/home, lazily going through his day. He hadn’t had a client in a while and didn’t really expect one that day. Close to closing time a young woman, Eloise Crystal, enters and finds him resting on a pillow at his desk. They have a little humorous exchange, and it eventually boils down to the client desiring Samson to find her biological father (to which Samson replied something along the lines of “shouldn’t you find him at home in bed with your mother?). Eloise believes that the man who claims to be her father, who was married to her mother prior to Eloise’s birth, and has raised her since that birth is not in fact her biological father.

Samson is quite reluctant to take the case, and the $100 retainer but he accepts it for one day. For his young female client needs to get back home before it is noticed she skipped school. The young woman is actually only 15.

With nothing else really to do, Samson lazily wanders around trying to figure out how to find a man who might have been with Eloise’s mother 15 to 17 years ago (Eloise originally said she was 17). He digs through back issues of the newspaper and eventually gets a taste for the case.

The book is slow paced. The main character is slightly less than fully formed, though more well rounded than might be expected for a first novel. Somewhere around the half way point I thought the book was bound to end up being what I had feared. Something of a disappointment, something of a let down. Likely to be rated no higher than, oh, 3.8 or so. Oddly enough, though, I got pulled into the story and while the middle was somewhat less solid, the beginning and end were quite strong. Quite an interesting little book, recommendable. Racking my brains thinking about it, I would put it down as a 4.40 star book. ( )
2 vote MikeBriggs | Aug 2, 2010 |
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