Written by: Vincent Lardo, based on characters by Lawrence Sanders
Published by: Simon & Schuster Audio
Performed by: Boyd Gaines
Florida is weird. I should know, I live there. Theories for this weirdness have ranged from the oppressive heat and humidity to our proximity to the Bermuda Triangle. And we have different flavors of weirdness as well: the Southern Fried oddballs of North Florida, the spicy Spanish loco-ness of Miami, and the rich eccentricities of Palm Beach. And Palm Beach is where McNally’s Alibi happens to be set.
Palm Beach is an island enclave isolated by geography and money. Indulging themselves in pleasures that range from the innocuous to the kinky is its residents’ main occupation. The townspeople live for scandal but work very hard to avoid it themselves. Helping them is Archibald “Archy” McNally, the jovial and urbane head of the Discreet Inquiries department of McNally and Son, Attorney at Law (Archy’s father is the Attorney, he’s the Son). Archy usually helps clients keep out of the gossip pages when they are involved in minor but embarrassing infractions of the law. But every once in a while, Archy has a case that involved major crimes, like extortion and murder.
Archie’s latest case revolved a supposed unpublished manuscript of Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, the ultimate society tell-all book. Decimus Fortesque, a millionaire with more money than sense (hence his eight ex-wives) has agreed to purchase it for $50,000. Archie is made part of this deal as a go-between for the exchange. Unfortunately, Archy is knocked unconscious, the book and the money disappear and the owner is found dead. Archy has three suspects: Claudia Lester, a sexy and shady “acquisitions agent” who has no problem using people to get her way; Matthew Harrigan, an aging gigolo hoping to make the big score, but is in way over his head; and Rodney Whitehead, an antiques dealer who has anxious to head to Costa Rica with the profits of the sale. Archy trusts these three as far as he can throw them, but he must untangle their lies to find the book, the money, and the murderer.
McNally’s Alibi is fluff. Not that that’s a bad thing, but knowing that does help scale your expectations. The mystery in this story is fairly interesting, but the fun is the setting and the characters that inhabit it. Archy is the modern version of Lord Peter Wimsey, a silly and witty eccentric with a unique sense of style (he wears puce berets, for example). However, he’s no dummy and is a capable investigator. Lawrence Sanders, and now after Sanders’ demise Vincent Lardo, have developed a fun and interesting character that you take pleasure in following around while he unravels mysteries or enjoys a good meal. And Archy is surrounded by a cast of characters that don’t quite have three dimensions, but make up for it by having their remaining two be out of the ordinary.
Boyd Gaines excels in his reading at giving the characters their own distinctive voices without being too cliched. As Archy, Gaines has the cultured amused tones of someone whose been raised in Society, but knows enough not to take it seriously. Gaines makes use of his range, dropping his voice into his chest for some characters, going into his nose for others. He seems to have put some thought into what the characters would actually sound like. And he make them a little over the top, just enough to add to the light tone of the book, but avoids it becoming cartoony. So if you’re looking for some well-read decent fluff, be sure and check this one out.