The Cooperman Variations
Reviewed: May 11, 2006
By: Howard Engel
Publisher: Penguin Books
279 pages, $18.99
Itís been awhile since Iíve treated
myself to a visit to Benny Coopermanís world. Wouldnít you know that when
I did, it would be the case where Benny decides to leave Grantham for a bit
and take a case in Toronto. I donít mind Toronto that much. We visit our daughter
there and get along fine, but I donít like it any more than Benny does, and
heís uneasy away from his home ground. Granthamís a smaller pond and the sharks
arenít quite so toothy.
Actually, itís a toothy shark that
lures Benny off to the city in the first place. Anna Abraham, the love of
his life, was off in Europe with some graduate students, and Benny was stagnating
in his office when Stella knocked on his door.
Stella Seco was one of those girls
that all the boys dreamed about in high school. But sheís not Stella anymore.
Her last name is Moss, courtesy of a husband she snagged when she was 18,
and her first name is Vanessa, at the suggestion of one of her ďmentorsĒ in
the broadcast business.
Vanessa is big in television now, head
of entertainment at the National Television Corporation, and sheís in the
sights of someone who wants her dead. Indeed they thought they had killed
her, since the lady who died at her townhouse was wearing her dressing gown
when the shotgun went off in her face.
Benny doesnít usually do body guard
duty, but this body was just too needy to be turned down (I can hardly believe
I wrote that), so Benny packed his valise and headed off to Hogtown, to see
what what swine might be after his old schoolmate.
Now Howard Engel knows a lot about
the media business, having turned out a lot of material for the CBC in his
day. NTC is not CBC, CTV or Global, but some strange amalgam of the quirks
of all three, such that some almost recognizable characters wander through
these pages, spreading bon mots about the medium in general and lending to
the general air of total chaos that often surrounds Benny when he is probing
at a problem.
There are relationship problems. How
do you work for the predatory woman that you once had a teenage crush on?
How do you deal with the office politics of a narcissistic corporation?
Bennyís hunt for the truth leads him
out of the city and to a reinterpretation of an earlier death, which took
place up in cottage county and involved a musician who seems to be a blend
of Glen Gould and YoYo Mah. Those parts of the book actually feel more like
a normal Cooperman novel, but the rest was good. Lots of banter with the local
cops, witty conversations with show biz folk, a decent mystery and, yes, a
scene which Benny will have to account to Anna for someday.
Thereís a real personís name in here
somewhere. Engel auctioned off that treat as part of a fund raiser for a worthy
cause. I have no idea who it is, but Iíll bet they got a kick out of it.