Lee Goldberg's blog is what led me to The Man With The Iron-On Badge, which just goes to show: blogging counts!
Not that I bought it. I asked the Seattle Public Library to buy it, though, and they did.
Harvey Mapes is a night-shift security guard at a gated community in the LA area. One of the residents asks him to follow his wife for a few days and Harvey jumps (positively leaps) at the chance to fulfill some of the PI fantasies he's been harboring since he was a wee tot.
It would be a pretty boring book if the lady just went about her business, so you might guess she's messed up in some nasty stuff. You'd be right. And Harvey gets drawn in faster than you can say 'baseball bat to the head'.
Lee posted a couple of times about the research he did into the pop culture roots of the detective genre to write the book. I expected Mapes to be obsessed; he was more just a normal guy who's watched a few too many movies and is eager to find any way out of his boring life.
The mundanity of that life is the books' strength. Mapes is so solidly real, such an average joe, so tediously prosaic, that he grounds the subsequent action. What could seem far-fetched in another context (there are a couple coincidences I'm thinking of) seems, through Harvey's slightly desperate lower-middle-class eyes, completely believable.
Short notes: the plotting is competent, Harvey's voice is spot-on, Lee Goldberg could clean up his prose a little, I don't like the cover much, and why is this a hardback?