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   To Catch a Spy, by Stuart M. Kaminsky  
  Novel, first publication in 2002
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      Toby Peters has rubbed elbows with, and taken a beating for, most of the brightest stars from Hollywood's 1940s heyday. Judy Garland, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin--this disheveled, taco-gulping L.A. private eye has worked for them all. Usually to his regret. In Stuart M. Kaminsky's wacky but charming To Catch a Spy, he adds the terminally suave Cary Grant to his client list.

    As 1943 comes to an end, with Allied bombs battering Berlin and Americans celebrating a new pork bonus among their wartime food stamps, Grant hires Peters to make a late-night swap of money for "compromising documents." ("I'm not being blackmailed over some crime or sexual indiscretion," Grant insists. "It's more important than that.") However, the mysterious messenger is shot before he can hand Peters the papers. His dying words: "George Hall." It's only the vaguest of clues, but enough to send Toby and Grant--who's working for British Intelligence Services--on a bungling chase that leads to a second corpse, a cabal of Nazi sympathizers, and a perilous confrontation on a moonlit precipice.

    What's most remarkable about this 22nd Peters outing is that it's just as welcome as the first, 1977's Bullet for a Star. Kaminsky, a film historian, employs his knowledge of Tinsel Town's "golden age" to both nostalgic and comic effect. More lighthearted than 2001's A Few Minutes Past Midnight, but still featuring Kaminsky's usually suspect cast of supporting eccentrics--including Irene Plaut, Toby's addled landlady, and dentist-from-hell Shelly Minck--To Catch a Spy is Raymond Chandler by way of the Marx Brothers.

    Source: J. Kingston Pierce,

    With a hilarious new Hollywood thriller and in the hire of the urbane, amusing screen star Cary Grant, private investigator Toby Peters continues a madcap career that has cast him as sleuth to such movie luminaries as Humphrey Bogart, the Marx Brothers, Bette Davis, Mae West, and Charlie Chaplin. Like many a movie mystery, this one begins in the middle of the night, when Toby, trying to deliver a package at Grantís behest, finds himself with a corpse on his hands, a lump on his head, and an odd message from a dying man. Now in pursuit of a murderer, Toby and Grant, who proves to be no less acrobatic than he is resourceful, follow a trail of clues that leads them eventually to a den of Nazi sympathizers and finally to a nighttime confrontation on a mountaintop with a very determined and formidably well-armed killer. As always, Toby can count on the aid of his friends: the unsanitary dentist Shelly Minck, with whom Toby shares an office; the huge wrestler-turned-poet Jerry Butler; the suave Swiss little person Gunther Whertman, who has mastered as many languages as he has skills; and Mrs. Irene Plaut, Tobyís daffy but dogged landlady. As always, too, all four lend Toby their loyalty and support, although they are more likely to add to the chaos.

      Part of series  
  • Toby Peters (#22)

      Related theme(s)  
  • 20th Century
  • Detectives - Sleuths - Pis - Bounty Hunter
  • Earth
  • Fashion - Jet Set - Hollywood - Actors - Theaters
  • Hard-Boiled
  • Murders
  • Mystery
  • U.S.A.

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