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Book Review - 'Brother, can you spare a dime?' by Ken Dalton

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Brother, can you spare a dime?

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Ken Dalton has created a sub-genre of fiction all his own—the comedic mystery. Murder isn't supposed to be funny, but somehow he makes it so. Not the act of killing per se, but more like the personalities of his two investigators, looking to piece it together. Flo and Bear are a trip. They're partners, not to mention lovers, who are just as adept at solving a crime as they are at fleecing their boss. Pinky, who they derogatorily call "the shrimp," serves as the straight man to their laugh-a-minute humor. He's the money hungry, sex crazed lawyer, who hires them mostly because he's afraid of them.

In this installment of Dalton's series, the clues they have seem pretty cut and dry. A successful rare coin dealer is shot in the head while sitting in his wheelchair. His brother stumbles across his body, walking through the blood, touching the gun and it's no big surprise when he's charged with the homicide. The twist is that his brother's two million dollar 1894 S dime is missing, and it doesn't help that his commercial real estate business could use just that amount to stave off impending bankruptcy.

But Pinky doesn't think he did it, and neither do Bear and Flo. So they backtrack the movements of the deceased, discovering that he talked to two other collectors about the dime at a recent coin show. They start with one then move on to the other as they begin to tighten the noose. But it's all lighthearted fun as the chase begins. Bear and Flo continually squeeze more funds out of Pinky to finance their expense account, and Pinky mutters and groans that he's going to be broke by the end of their quest. Their back and forth bickering is as hilarious as it is revelatory. With each expenditure request, Bear and Flo get closer and closer to nailing their target, and Pinky gets closer and closer to blowing his top.

Where do Bear and Flo finally end up? China. Dalton does an exemplary job of showing what it's like for two average American citizens, traveling in a Communist regime. The crowds. The oversight. The pollution. Money is important, but not as much as being connected to the right people. In China, it's not what you know, but who you know, and luckily a relative of a friend of theirs puts them on the inside track. They end up doing the impossible, finding one suspect hiding among a billion people, not an easy task to say the least.

Bear and Flo provide plenty of comic relief, but they're also intrepid, gritty investigators. Mystery fans will enjoy following them from lead to lead, as they work doggedly to bring the guilty to justice. Their chuckle inducing antics make them real and relatable, but their crime solving abilities are what make them second to none in the mystery department. Dalton gives armchair sleuths the best of both worlds in this refreshing duo, a twosome unlike any other they're bound to encounter.

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