We learn about Milan gradually, but at the beginning of chapter two, we get “Maybe it’s the empty-bed syndrome after a lifelong marriage; maybe it’s just that I’m pushing forty and not terribly pleased with where my life has taken me,” which is followed by two paragraphs of his life story, his entire life summed up just like that and very naturally in the conversational tone that this first-person past-tense book does. While this is a book about solving a crime, it’s mostly about Milan, and I suppose that’s why people like it Les’ books so much. He has absurd conversations with people because he doesn’t hold back, doesn’t care much about what people think of him.
Descriptions. Get a load of this: “his face got tight like a woman’s leather clutch purse that had been stuffed too full with makeup and cigarettes and tampons and address books.” Since Milan is narrating this, that’s Milan’s description. Milan is smart. Some of the things he says, like “I’ll bet your dictionary of American clichés is falling apart from overuse” are gems.
The plot is easy to follow and intriguing. I want to find out what happened to the guy who was murdered, and I want to find out what is behind it all. What are the reasons human beings do these things to each other? Greed, hate, jealousy, anger, all those negative things that make us human are the things capable of turning us to murder.
At the end of the book we’re in Milan’s personal life, and his relationship with Mary and his thoughts on the whole matter, which is exactly where the book should go to at the end because the book is about Milan and not about the murder he solved. There’s a long sentence there, but I like long sentences. “And afterward, after we had moved into the adjoining room for reasons of comfort and greater maneuverability, and we were each smoking a cigarette and sharing a Stroh’s, I couldn’t help reflecting on the nature of the universe, and how from death comes life, from destruction comes rebirth, and from a particularly messy and brutal case that had pretty much destroyed my faith in human nature came my first moment of real peace and happiness in a long time.”
He struggles with having chosen the private investigator line of work, and he ends the book with “And maybe, just maybe, it might not have happened to a greengrocer or a rack jobber or the guy who sells ads on the phone for the Plain Dealer. And that made it all okay.”