cover image Hook or Crook

Hook or Crook

Gerald Hammond. St. Martin's Press, $17.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-0-312-11825-9

Hammond now adds an angling tale to his gun-lore mysteries (starring gunsmith Keith Calder) and his spaniel-training adventures (featuring retired soldier John Cunningham). Like those novels, this is a brief, plot-driven affair, heavy on information, wafer-thin on characterization. Calder's business partner, Wallace James, takes gregarious and inept fisherman Eric Bell on an angling trip in the Scottish Highlands (and, in the first five pages alone, gives him more fly-fishing tips than Norman Maclean put in his entire A River Runs Through It). The body of one Bernard Hollister is soon found in the river. His death looks like an accident, until James notes that the lure embedded in his cheek is the wrong kind of lure for that river at that time and particular depth. It turns out that the deceased had business links to the Middle East, and had been spotted recently in a brawl with a local Arab. James solves the case, but along the way he proves to be a dull and insufferably smug soul. Hammond's best books are enlivened by a host of plucky dogs; his worst, like this, offer only a catch of dead, cold fish. (Jan.)