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Staked Goat by Jeremiah Healy
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Book Description:
A friend's murder takes Cuddy back to the dark days of Vietnam.

As military policemen, John Francis Cuddy and Al Sachs bonded while patrolling the wild streets of American-occupied Saigon. Over a decade later, Cuddy is a private detective making a living in Boston's back alleys. Awoken by a ringing phone at 7 a.m., Cuddy is shocked to hear Sachs asking to meet for a drink that night. His old friend's voice reminds him of the time a Cagney movie inspired Sachs to say that, if ever captured by enemy agents, he would break his pinkie finger to signal to Cuddy that his death was not an accident. Sachs never shows for the drink, and the next morning he is found naked in a park, his body mangled and his pinkie broken.

To avenge his friend, Cuddy confronts a dark military cover-up and travels back to the war zone he thought he left behind years ago.

My Review:
This second installment of the John Francis Cuddy series was even better than his debut novel. This fast-paced plot was more complex than the first book and the action moves fast and kept my interest until the very end. The characters are very interesting and believable. The murder of Cuddy's friend stems back to Vietnam and has lots of twists and turns. Cuddy visits his wife grave a couple times in each book and tells her what is happening in his life. This book shows a start of a relationship, the first since his wife's death. Each book leaves you with a feeling that you need to read the next one in order to see what will happen next. I look forward to reading the 3rd in the series very soon and I highly recommend this series to those who like mystery books with a likable, realistic and endearingly human character. ( )
  EadieB | Sep 26, 2017 |
PLOT OR PREMISE:
John Cuddy is a former insurance investigator who lost his job when he started drinking too much following the death of his wife to cancer. A friend from Vietnam calls him up unexpectedly while visiting Boston, arranges to meet him for dinner and drinks, and misses the date only to show up dead the next morning. Cuddy smells a rat in the official story, and sets out to help clear his friend's name and help his family.
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WHAT I LIKED:
"Well, I was supposed to be studying French today. I even promised myself I would spend the evening doing that. Then I made the mistake of wandering over to a bookstore and looking through the Mystery section to see if there was anything that leaped off the shelves at me. Jeremiah Healy's ""The Staked Goat"" was feeling particularly restless and somehow not only forced itself off the shelf and into my hands, but also managed to take hold of my wallet and steer me to the register. That was, I think, somewhere around 5:00 p.m. Except for the time on the way to the diner and the time to walk home, I've been subjecting myself to the simply wonderful story contained within its covers ever since. I'm almost tempted to read it again over the next few days s l o w l y this time to see if there is anything I missed, and if not, just to savour it a while longer. In any event, a very enjoyable four hours.

I liked the very realistic portrayal of the friends -- biting their tongues when they used idioms (""dead to the world"", etc), laughing occasionally, etc. But regardless of the fast-paced action after the visit to Pittsburgh, the part I loved the best was the portrayal of the gay couple. I lived with a gay male couple with about the same age discrepancy, who had been together for nineteen years, and it seemed like I was back in their kitchen having breakfast when I was reading the story."
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WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
I did wonder about the accuracy of some of the details surrounding the Shivah sitting for Al (i.e. a funeral on the Saturday -- Jewish Sabbath -- I didn't think that was kosher, no pun intended). But it did say at the start that Al didn't go very often -- hope that wasn't a cop out...could've been an interesting sub-area.
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BOTTOM-LINE:
I was only going to read a little -- and lost an entire evening!
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DISCLOSURE:
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I was not personal friends with the author, but I did follow him on social media. ( )
  polywogg | Mar 17, 2016 |
Fairly good read. Scary stuff about torture during war. ( )
  Darrol | Mar 28, 2009 |
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Book description
http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2009/...

(Editor’s note: This is the 72nd installment of our ongoing Friday blog series highlighting great but forgotten books. Today’s selection comes from Chicago author Libby Fischer Hellmann. Her most recent novel is Doubleback, the second installment [after 2008’s Easy Innocence] in the private eye Georgia Davis series. 
...

My entry into crime fiction was by way of thrillers. I gobbled up John le Carré, Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, Ken Follett, and more (with the exception of Helen MacInnes, they were all men back then). In time, however, a steady diet of thrillers brought monotony: the world was on the precipice, the hero saved it, then walked off into the sunset. I remember complaining to my mother, who was and continues to be a prolific mystery reader. “Here,” she said, handing me a book. “Try this.” That book was The Staked Goat (1986), by Jeremiah Healy.

Although I didn’t know it then, I had wandered into a classic private-eye novel. In The Staked Goat Boston detective John Francis Cuddy tries to find out who murdered his old Vietnam buddy, Al Sachs. The police think Sachs’ death was the result of a ritualistic homosexual murder and want to close the case; Cuddy doesn’t buy it. His investigation takes him from Boston to Pittsburgh to the Pentagon, where he tangles with a subculture of the military whose black-market operations have flourished since the days of the Vietnam War. At the same time, Cuddy must deal with the aftermath of a previous case.
Unlike the novels I had been reading, there were no gut-wrenching pyrotechnics or impossible tasks to be accomplished in the nick of time. Instead, there was an absorbing story that dealt with real, human-scale issues. In fact, what attracted me most was the realization that crime fiction could be an excellent vehicle to explore social controversies without beating a reader over the head. Healy isn’t afraid to tackle a tough issue, one that--at the time--most would have liked to forget. He also explores society’s preconceptions about homosexuality, and, with unusual foresight for the era in which he was writing, shows how groundless they are.
But plot can only take a reader so far, and it was Healy’s characters who won me over. Al’s widow, her friends, the elderly black couple in Boston, even the antagonists--they’re all painted in shades of reality. There are no cardboard stereotypes here, no matter what race, gender, or sexual orientation--just people who laugh and cry and bleed. Everyone has a back story, and Healy sprinkles just enough of their histories into his pages to keep me reading. In that sense, the plot seems unhurried. Healy wants us to get to know these people before he reveals what will or won’t happen to them. And yet, events are carefully orchestrated. For example, one of the most touching scenes involves Cuddy taking a potential new love interest to the grave of his late wife, Beth. That’s interrupted with an explosive action scene. Perfect choreography.
The prose, crisp, lean, and muscular, takes us to the edge of terse. And while the author leaves much to his reader’s imagination, I never had questions about any character’s motivation. Healy really does show us how “less is more.”
It was Jerry Healy who started my journey into P.I. novels, police procedurals, even amateur sleuths. Over the next 10 years I read widely and eventually started writing myself. But, like a first lover, The Staked Goat has a special place in my heart. It’s a classic. Which is why you have to read this book.
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A friend's murder takes Cuddy back to the dark days of Vietnam As military policemen, John Francis Cuddy and Al Sachs bonded while patrolling the wild streets of American-occupied Saigon. Over a decade later, Cuddy is a private detective making a living in Boston's back alleys. Awoken by a ringing phone at seven a.m., Cuddy is shocked to hear Sachs asking to meet for a drink that night. His old friend's voice reminds him of the time a Cagney movie inspired Sachs to say that, if ever captured by enemy agents, he would break his pinkie finger to signal to Cuddy that his death was not an accident. Sachs never shows for the drink, and the next morning he is found naked in a park, his body mangled and his pinkie broken. To avenge his friend, Cuddy confronts a dark military cover-up, and travels back to the war zone he thought he left behind years ago.… (more)

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