Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews, yielded another gem, this one from a more recent past and featuring none other than Illya Kuryakin!
A NOTE FROM EDITOR SUE (Who Couldn’t Resist…)
Yes, it’s THAT David McCallum, “Dr. Ducky” on the popular TV show, NCIS. But I’ve never actually got into NCIS–I was a Man from U.N.C.L.E. fanatic. For me, it was all about Illya Kuryakin. So smart. So smooth. So…totally cool.
Many years later, as an adult drama teacher in New York, I was traipsing the hallway connecting The Chapin School’s two buildings. A gathering of the parents of students accepted for the following year was in progress in the multi-purpose room, but one father seemed to be significantly more interested in the Lower School art work that covered the hallway. He was crouched in front of an array of 3D pieces featuring fantastic flowers. As I approached, the man stood up and turned. And I stopped–one foot frozen, I believe, in the air. “Oh, my God…Illya Kuryakin…” I burbled. “I wore black turtlenecks for years because of you…” Oh, my God–I couldn’t believe it had fallen out of my mouth. But, luckily, McCallum laughed, graciously….just as graciously as he gave of his time to drama and speech events for the next many years. A very gracious man indeed.
I had no idea he had begun writing mysteries and look forward to this treat. And if you haven’t discovered it either, I suspect you will too. Thank you, Marilyn!
Once a Crooked Man is a terrific read. Starting with an overheard conversation outside the Fiery Dragon Chinese restaurant in New York City, traveling to South America and London and back again to Manhattan with corpses everywhere, David McCallum will have you hooked all the way.
It all begins when Carter Allinson II stops by a Starbucks in New York City and shares a table with a beautiful young woman. Fiona Walker comes from a wealthy family, and shortly after their meeting the couple become engaged and Carter is welcomed into Fiona’s father’s investment firm. As a college student Carter had supported himself by a little drug dealing, but with his upcoming wedding he wants to leave that behind him.
Not so fast, says gangster Sal Bruschetti, head of the organization that has been supplying Carter. You don’t need to be doing any more minor-league dealing, but we need you for another reason. We’ll be investing money with your father-in-law’s firm, and you’ll be handling all the investments in legitimate ways. Otherwise, we’ll let the Walkers know about your history. Carter doesn’t see that he has a choice in the matter, and so begins the long-term relationship between Carter and the three Bruschetti brothers.
None of this has anything to do with Harry Murphy, a fairly successful actor who works in television, on Broadway, and does voiceovers for commercials. He’s on a Manhattan street when he has an immediate need for a bathroom. Spotting the Fiery Dragon, he walks in on the Bruschettis in the midst of a “business” talk. They order him out, but his need is so great that he decides to use the alley outside the building to relieve himself. Thus he can’t help overhearing their conversation concerning a man in London that the trio is going to have killed.
The plot of Once a Crooked Man is a great one. Ever impetuous, when Harry learns what the brothers have planned he decides to fly to England and warn the victim. Once there, there’s no controlling the events that follow. But Harry is a resourceful man with many talents. Sometimes he’s a step ahead of the Bruschettis, sometimes a step behind, but he’s always in the midst of the action.
All the characters in this novel are terrific. I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns the book took because of the things the individuals said and the ways they responded to events. Carter, Harry, the British detective Lizzie Carswell, and Sal, Enzo, and Max Bruschetti are wonderfully drawn. The plot goes from one cliffhanger to another, keeping the reader totally engaged up to the last page.
You may remember David McCallum from his many roles, starting with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and continuing to the present in NCIS. Now he is an author as well. Let’s hope for many more books from this talented man.
You can read about David McCallum at various sites on the web.
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I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan. I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful. And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!