cover image Blackmail: A Stanley Hastings Mystery Novel

Blackmail: A Stanley Hastings Mystery Novel

Parnell Hall. Mysterious Press, $19.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-521-2

The eight previous titles in Hall's entertaining series about the low-rent sleuthing shenanigans of New York actor/PI Stanley Hastings have steadily broadened Hall's readership. The latest, while no disappointment, isn't likely to propel Hall into the crime fiction big leagues. Seen last treading the boards gingerly in Actor , and before that as a PI chasing cases for liability lawyer Richard Rosenberg, here Hastings is hired on his own. A pretty woman wants him to retrieve some photos with which she is being blackmailed by someone named Barry. Stanley gets the prints, which are high-quality porno shots that don't feature the woman. Before he gets a chance to ask her why she doesn't want the negatives, he finds her dead body. When he finds another, two cops, one smart and one dumb, get on his case. Both victims were actors working a weird sting that makes little sense to anyone; even Hastings's deductions and the smart cop's explanation will challenge the clever reader. Although the characterization here is sharp, the pace brisk and the dialogue snappy, the ornate complexities of the plot detract from the overall impact. (Mar.)