NAL, March 2004, 23.95, 288 pp.
When he wakes up in the hospital, Pete Ingalls thinks he's a private investigator and talks like a gumshoe out of a forties film. He has no memory of being a mild mannered hermetic bookstore clerk who had an accident when a pile of books fell on his head. His friend thinks he is putting him on but when he leaves the hospital, he opens up a PI office, places an ad in the newspaper, prints some business cards, and hires a secretary who wanders if her boss is legitimate or crazy.
Actually Pete has two walk in cases that he eagerly grabs up. The first one involves Celeste Vroman who wants Pete to find her lover Jeff Litman who seems to have disappeared. He finds Jeff hiding at his office avoiding Celeste because he started an affair with Olivia Cartwright. His second case involves Catherine Flonger who thinks her TV reporter husband is cheating on her and wants proof. Neither case goes smoothly. Jeff disappears, Olivia is found murdered and Pete has a quickie with Catherine in a women's dressing room. It goes downhill from there.
What makes DROP DEAD, MY LOVELY an outstanding reading experience is the hero is suffering from amnesia yet effortlessly becomes a private investigator modeling himself on tough PI's like Same Spade and Spencer. There is plenty of action because Pete manages to get himself in a lot of trouble while working on cases yet the best part of Ellis Weiner's novel is the dialogue. Pete sounds like an anachronistic Phillip Marlow clone in a twenty-first century context and that makes for a hilarious novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner