Friday, May 22, 2020

The Longest Pleasure

The Longest Pleasure (1981) by Douglas Clark is one of the first Masters and Green books I discovered back in the 1990s. My book-logging was spotty at times before I started blogging, so I'm not sure if this or my next intended reread, The Gimmel Flask, was the first one but it was definitely one of the reasons I got hooked on the series. And it was definitely one of the first mysteries I read where the investigating officers spent so much time getting intricate bits of technical information to help speed their case along. One might think that all that technical detail would make the eyes of non-scientific types like me cross or at the very least be snooze-inducing, but it really doesn't. Clark has a way of bringing the fine details into the story conversationally and in laymen's terms so I feel like I'm learning something without feeling forced to learn something (if that makes sense...). 

In this particular outing, we learn all the finer details of botulism. For instance, did you know that there are several types*? This becomes important to the investigation. And that's one good thing about Clark's books--he may foist a bunch of scientific facts on his audience, but they're never info-dumps for the sake of info-dumps. There's always a purpose and if you're sharp enough to put the bits together properly you can keep up with Masters. And Masters is in a bit of a rush this time round. He's got a mad scientist (quite literally) at work doctoring tins of various meats (luncheon meat, ham, fish, etc.) and planting them in various branches of a supermarket chain. Several families fall ill before Masters and his team collect enough information to spot a pattern and figure out the type of murderer we're looking for and what his motivation might be. Masters is determined to work as quickly as possible to prevent any more sickness and death.

It's interesting to watch Masters, Green, and company at work on what seems at first to be a motive-less crime. If crime it is--they're not even sure of that to begin with. We, the readers, are because why else would Clark be giving us this scenario? But following the reasoning of the team to the point where they believe something nasty is going on makes for good reading. It was also interesting (especially in light of the current health crisis and the current administration's "handling" of it) to see intelligent people dealing with a health problem in an efficient and yet humane manner. This is another enjoyable installment in the series with one of the many unusual murder methods that Clark has produced over the run of 27 books. I gave it  ★★★★ when I first read it and there is no reason to quibble with that rating now.

(*labeled A-F in this story--and a quick search on Google shows there's now a G [identified in 1981--apparently after this was published])

Deaths: 2 (poisoning)
Calendar of Crime: July (primary action)

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