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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Angels Will Not Care

Reviewed: March 16, 2005
By: John Straley
Publisher: Bantam Books
238 pages, $8.99

Itís sad that Cecil Younger canít seem to get his life in order. When we left the Sitka, Alaska, based detective he was on what appeared to be an upswing. He hooked up with a strong and lovely woman named Jane Marie and had concluded a successful, if somewhat messy, case. He was continuing to build up lots of good karma through his guardianship of Toddy, a retarded young man who lives with him.

So why does Cecil have to approach what good fortune he has by treating his life the way he does an airplane ride. Cecil usually gets drunk when he flies.

When we pick up the Younger saga our hero is engaged in a stakeout - at a chicken coop. This attempt to solve a case of fowl play is a come down, even for Cecil, and he solution does not actually please his client. So when he arrives home to find that a slick sounding gentleman wants him to take a cruise, itís not a difficult decision for him to take.

Jane Marie, a specialist in whale studies, is not about to let this happen unless she goes along and, of course, Toddy has to come as well. For Cecil, all this domesticity seems to become an excuse for a shipboard binge once they get going.

That nice Mr. Sonny Walters didnít hire Cecil just because he thought the seedy PI could use a vacation. It seems that the passenger lists of the S.S. Westward have been racking up an unusual mortality rate, and the company which books the cruises wants to know why. The politics of the situation are complex, since the ship is owned by a different company, so itís not entirely clear who is in charge, or who Cecil should report to, always assuming he can keep his act together long enough to be effective.

Cecil learns that there seem to be a lot of terminally ill passengers on the Westward, and that the shipís doctor has a bit of a Kevorkian complex, but none of this explains why the man turns up dead, or why someone should try to kill him and Jane Marie. There are some lovely scenes in this story. Thereís Toddyís obsession with memory, time and photography. Thereís Jane Marieís conversation with a bear. Thereís the whole idea of a secret club that books cruises in order o die only to have something go wrong.

It makes an interesting story, but also one that Iím no entirely satisfied with. Cecil is an intelligent man who knows better than to go off the rails the way he does. There are numerous places in his book where I want to grab him and box his ears until he starts to listen to his own inner wisdom instead of going with the flow of his problems.

Annoying as he is, however, Iíll be back for the next book. Iím curious as to whether fatherhood will actually be his cure.

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