Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Case Study No. 1969: Staff of the Hyde Park Public Library

Final Notice - Audio Book Sample
Buy "Final Notice" a Jonathan Valin Audio Book gid-81332

She was perfect. She smelled of toothpaste, talc, and something sweeter than lilacs. And in that crazy season of autumn, when Cincinnati was ablaze in the blood-red color of fall, Kate Davis made Harry Stoner feel old, and a little in love too. But for Harry Stoner those were only two more reasons that Kate shouldn't have anything more to do with this case. Because what had started with a twisted act of vandalism in the local library had led Kate and Harry, paired together, on a twisting path to a brutal, unsolved murder and to a pumped-up, speeded-up psycho. Now the May-December thing has to stop. The man Harry and Kate are after was using the cut-up pictures of women to tell the whole world what he intended to do. The last thing he needs is the perfect girl to do it to...
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It was a brand new building, modern-looking in the style of contemporary day schools and community colleges - all glossy undulations and shining declivities, like a razor haircut in concrete and glass. But the old women behind the service desk hadn't changed a bit since the days when suburban libraries were just plaster walls, wood shelving, and "Quiet" signs. There were still little old ladies in floral print dresses and high-topped shoes, wearing too much lipstick or none at all. Wispy gray-heads meant to lean together and gossip. Which is what two of them did when they saw me stride through the glass doors - all six feet, three inches of me - with my busted statue's face gone civil in a smile. I figured that they knew every man, woman, and child in the neighborhood by sight. And not only by sight. By record and by reputation, too. By fines and by finitudes. Which, in itself, was probably enough to put the lemons in their looks. That and the fact that they didn't know me.

I asked one of them if she could show me to Leon Ringold's office, and she gave me her overdue frown and looked up coolly from behind rimless spectacles. She was a very little old lady, this one, with round stooped shoulders made for the red cardigan sweater she was wearing and the sharp, chinless head of a night owl.

"I'll see," she said, lingering over the "see" as if being shown to Leon Ringold's office were no sure thing. Then she asked me what she'd been wanting to ask since she and their cronies had seen me come through the door. She did it with a little sweetness in her voice, deliciously, as if she were sucking on a mint.

"May I say who's calling?"

"Harry Stoner," I said. "He's expecting me."

She toddled off to a door behind the desk and walked through it into what appeared to be a small white-walled office. There was a two or three minutes space, which the other old ladies pretended to fill by stamping overdue books and sorting through catalogue cards. Then the owl-eyed one came out the door and back to the desk. She looked, I thought, slightly disappointed. They all look slightly disappointed. I began to wonder if they didn't know who I was, after all.

"You can go in," she said without enthusiasm.

I went in.

It was indeed a small office, bare except for a steel desk set opposite the door. Leon Ringold, or the man I took to be Leon Ringold, was standing behind that desk; and behind him, on the far wall, a muscular wooden Jesus was peering sadly over his shoulder. Ringold was a small man in his late thirties, with wavy, lead-colored hair and an incongruous little boy's face that made him look as swart and peevish as an elf. He held out his right hand as if it hurt him to move; and when I shook it, he swayed slightly at the shoulders.

"Your ladies don't seem to like my looks," I said, sitting across from him at the desk.

He made an exasperated face and said, "Ignore them. They don't want to see Ms. Davis lose her job, that's all. My God, I can't do anything around here without their butting in. It's just like living at home."

I smiled and Ringold blushed from forehead to chin. He had all the makings of a "tetchy" one, as my grandmother used to say. One of those angry little men who's never forgiven the rest of the world for looking down on them, as if a man's stature were purely a matter of height. It didn't take a detective to conclude that the best approach with Mr. Leon Ringold was to stick strictly to business and to save the banter for a client with a thicker hide.



Final Notice
by Jonathan Valin

Hardcover: 246 pages
Publisher: Dodd Mead (September 1980)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0396078982

Private investigator, Harry Stoner, teams up with a young woman and a group of little old librarians to find the person who has been cutting up art books at the Hyde Park Library in Cincinnatti.



An apparent psychotic - the "Hyde Park Ripper" - has been busy mutilating expensive art books at the Hyde Park public library. Director Leon Ringold ("one of those angry little men who's never forgiven the rest of the world for looking down on them") has brought in detective Harry Stoner to nab the culprit.

Stoner makes friends with the aging, "owl-faced" librarian Jessie Moselle, who dabbles in genealogy, takes astrology seriously, and favors Bushnell's Irish whiskey. Jessie provides some useful assistance in producing a list of suspects. And why not? She has "a little something" on most of her clientele, including what the stars allegedly reveal about their characters.

Her take on librarians' experience of the world and the nature of their bravery, such as it is: "We haven't seen much of life, outside of what a few great minds have written about it ... But I think there is a certain courage that comes with education ... not a physical courage ... but an intellectual one."

The novel's title comes from Miss Moselle's suggested moniker for the end-game move on the perpetrator, Plan Final Notice.

A readable mystery-thriller whose dirty work extends well beyond slicing up photos of the Venus de Milo.

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