Many years ago I went through one of those reader phases where I deliberately sought out weird titles just because there's nothing better than a quest. (Okay well any excuse to haunt bookshops and secondhand shops...) So THE CASE OF THE DEATH OF A LADIES' MAN appealed if for no other reason than a bit of nostalgia for that fun (and the sudden realisation that it might be time to revive it!)
The book started out with quite a bang, and the details of a corpse found in a King's Cross alleyway that is guaranteed to make you sit up, pay attention, and work out very rapidly that there's a sly and dry sense of humour at work here. As well as a distinct requirement for readers who are up for a bit of slang translation, and a leaning towards the odd. Spread like Vegemite from the knife of somebody who obviously has no idea. You know the sort - makes you snicker even though you know you shouldn't...
As required for something with such a huge hat tip to the golden age of pulp fiction, we've got a hero (Mr Rainbow) who does a fine, and rather elaborate line in wisecracks and asides to camera, many of which are particularly Australian. We've also got a female sidekick who might not necessarily be on the side of the angels, an ex-wife and child, an ex-colleague and born again Christian, a heap of pissed off local gangsters, and a boat on the loose in Sydney Harbour. It's almost impossible to pick a timeframe in which this book is set, and it doesn't matter a damn. Everything seems to slot together, much like the wide boy in gun sights alluded to in the blurb.
On the dark side of funny THE CASE OF THE DEATH etc etc had me laughing out loud at the most inappropriate points, and was considerably more fun than I thought it was going to be. Whilst it is a hat-tip to the old pulp style, it's got enough originality and smarts to wipe away any suspicion of a crutch. You'll need to have one of those daft, slightly silly senses of humour and approach this as being from the entertaining, rather than illuminating side of crime fiction, which is no bad thing. There's an earlier book in the series - THE CASE OF THE HOOD WITH NO HANDS. Haven't read that one yet but I'm going to rectify that the next time I need an antidote to the dark and dire.