Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Big Grouse: Review

The Big Grouse (1986) comes late in the Masters & Green police procedural series by Douglas Clark. Masters's specialized detective team has long been together and gotten used to one another. But that's all going to change. Detective Sergeant Reed is given a promotion that has been due for quite a while and Masters is preparing to select a replacement when he is told by the Assistant Commissioner that a replacement has already been selected for him. Masters is a bit surprised--he's always had a pretty free hand with his team till now. But it seems that when the AC arranged for Bill Green to stay on after retirement age as a special member of the team, he agreed that the next time an opening came up he'd arrange for a qualified female officer to be appointed. And so Detective Sergeant Tippen joins the team.

There are adjustments to be made on all sides. This is the first time Masters has taken on a Detective Sergeant that hasn't been vetted by either himself or Green and it may take a while for Sergeant Tippen to get used to Master's demanding standards of meticulous memorization and brilliant, logical analysis of evidence. She doesn't have a great deal of time to settle in, though. The Assistant Commissioner drops a typically puzzling matter into Masters's lap. The AC's wife is worried about a missing relative and won't stop pestering her husband until he shows her that an attempt has been made to investigate. He intends for Masters to do a bit of simple spadework--just enough to convince the wife they given it the ol' college try. 

Masters thinks it's a perfect assignment for the new team member. Do a bit of digging, type up a meticulous report, and they can dust their hands and be done with it. Except...Sergeant Tippen does her job a bit too well and the team is pushed into a full-blown investigation. Masters becomes convinced that the relative, a lead salesman who did quite a bit of traveling, has come to a sticky end. But it's a bit hard to prove when there's no body in evidence. Sergeant Tippen gets thrown into a full-scale Masters-style investigation in which the team is expected to come up with the straw to make the bricks of a murder conviction. It isn't long before they discover that the missing man may not have been the paragon of a husband his family believes and that a motive for murder may lie in his past. Motive leads to where the murder might have taken place which eventually leads to the discovery of the body and the capture of the killer.

This late entry in the series is a fair to middlin' example of the Masters and Green police procedural. The usual ingredients are all present--Masters and company expected to produce rabbits out of hats without any rabbits in the vicinity. The team gather for frequent brain-storming sessions, Tippen gets the hang of total recall reporting, and Masters draws upon an esoteric clue that helps point the way. A generally entertaining story with a small drawback--coming in the mid-1980s, it shows us some less-than-favorable views of women detectives in the workforce and Bill Green comes across as a little patronizing with his insistence on calling the new team member "Petal." Knowing the characters as well as I do after reading so many of the books, I don't think Clark intends Bill Green to sound quite as patronizing and chauvinistic as he does--but that doesn't change the tone. I definitely don't recommend this one as a starting point. ★★ and 3/4 --I couldn't justify a full three for this particular outing. [And that cover--I mean, really, couldn't we have come up with something more interesting?]

Fellow-blogger, Noah has also given his take on this one over at Noah's Archives (along with a few others that he thinks it better to avoid)...stop by and see what he has to say.

[Finished on 8/4/17]

No comments: