Armadillos & Old Lace Hardcover – 1 Jan 1994
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About the Author
Kinky Friedman - commonly known to his many fans as 'The Kinkster' - first found fame as the lead singer of the country-and-western band 'The Texas Jewboys'. He is also the author of a series of highly acclaimed detective stories, featuring himself as the wise-cracking, cigar-smoking, cat-loving sleuth. He populates his novels with many of his friends and associates, portraying them (to their great delight) as villains, cheats and con-men. In the words of the great Willie Nelson, he is the 'best whodunnit writer to come along since Dashiel Whats-his-name'. Kinky Friedman lives in a trailer in the South Texas Hills with two dogs, two cats and Dilly, his pet armadillo. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This time the setting is not New York but mainly rural Texas, at a ranch where Kinky's father hosts a summer camp for children. Many of the characters, like the PI himself, are based on real people of the same name. The absence of the New York characters gives this book a slightly different character and the children, camp counsellors and members of his family do not quite have quite the same sharpness. In 1986, Friedman [the author] ran for Justice of the Peace in Kerrville, Texas, not far from San Antonio, but lost. The victor, Frances A. Kaiser, and Patricia E. Knox, Justice of the Peace in Kerrville, both feature prominently in the novel in somewhat unflattering descriptions [both are thanked in the Acknowledgements for being ‘good Americans and good sports’].
Although planning to spend time at the camp, the Kinkster is soon dragged into the investigation of the deaths of a series of old ladies – all of whom die violently on their 76th birthdays in and around Kerrville. Their graves are subsequently festooned with yellow roses, suggesting that a serial killer may be on the loose. Like all these books, this is an undemanding read and the humour is somewhat more restrained and less barbed than for the books set in New York – although there are still plenty of somewhat adolescent jokes, not least about farting in a humidor. The plotting is rather vague and the ending somewhat of an anti-climax. I suspect that the enjoyment that the reader will get from this book will depend very much on how far s/he falls under the spell of the wisecracking investigator who, regularly, says something that brings the reader up short – one such scene relates to the last time he and his father saw a close acquaintance, Doc Phelps.
The story balances detection and the rather mundane work on the ranch, and reveals the Kinkster to possess a decidedly sympathetic and sensitive side to his character, one that he would certainly not reveal in New York. ‘I'd become ambivalent about performing country music gigs,’ the Kinkster says [although it could equally well be the author talking], ‘and I'd come to realize that anyone who uses the word 'ambivalent' probably shouldn't have been a country singer in the first place.’
The Kinkster has conversations with ‘the cat’, an armadillo, Dilly, and with his car, and we meet a beekeeper and a number of Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The author is, naturally, a Republican. The drinking and romantic interludes are mercifully limited, and there is an excellent trick relating to orange kangaroos in Denmark that will amaze young children.
An acquired taste, but I found it engaging although I doubt whether I would want to read another in the series for a few weeks. 8/10.
Kinky has, once again, cast himself as the PI hero and has continued to use family and friends as the book's supporting characters. Echo Hill Ranch was founded by his parents, Tom and Min, in the early 1950s. Min died in 1985, before the book was written - though Tom does appear and is always referred to by his first name. A summer camp is held on the ranch every year, and Kinky's sister, Marcie, appears as one of the camp counsellors. (It was Marcie's idea that Kinky should start writing mystery novels - I will be eternally grateful to her). Frances Kaiser, Kerr County's Sheriff, and Pat Knox, Kerrville's Justice of the Peace, also appear. The green trailer, Kinky's place of residence in this book, is where he wrote several of his early books. It's now (apparently) home to an armadillo, who presumably answers to the name of Dilly. Much use is also made of Dusty, his mother's old talking car. However, further comparisons with David Hasselhoff and KITT just don't stand up.
Though Kinky has returned home for a holiday, Pat Knox has other ideas. She contacts regarding hom the deaths of four old ladies who have died over the previous five months. Although the Sheriff, Frances Kaiser, has found nothing suspicious about any of them, Pat remains convinced they were murdered. She asks Kinky to look over her files and form an opinion - though he initially agrees with the Sheriff. However, his opinion starts to change when a fifth victim turns up - with her lips sewn shut.
This is the best of Kinky's books I've read to date - though, admittedly, I haven't read then all. He still delivers a fast-moving book, with more one-liners than you reasonably hope for, but it also has the benefit of a strong story. In addition, he writes with a strong sense of affection form the camp and the people who have helped out there over the years. His quips may not be to everyone's taste, but this is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
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