Harry Lipkin, Private Eye

Harry Lipkin, Private Eye

4.3 6
by Barry Fantoni

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Meet Harry Lipkin: Part Sam Spade, part Woody Allen, all mensch.
Harry Lipkin is a tough-talking, soft-chewing, rough-around-the-edges, slow-around-the-corners private investigator who carries a .38 along with a spare set of dentures. He’s not the best P.I. in Miami, but at eighty-seven, he’s certainly the oldest. His latest client,

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Meet Harry Lipkin: Part Sam Spade, part Woody Allen, all mensch.
Harry Lipkin is a tough-talking, soft-chewing, rough-around-the-edges, slow-around-the-corners private investigator who carries a .38 along with a spare set of dentures. He’s not the best P.I. in Miami, but at eighty-seven, he’s certainly the oldest. His latest client, Mrs. Norma Weinberger, has a problem close to home. Someone has been stealing sentimental trinkets and the occasional priceless jewel from her; someone she employs, trusts, cares for, and treats like family. The suspect list reads like the cast of Clue—the chauffeur, butler, maid, chef, and gardener all seem to have motive, access, and a lot more moolah than they should. With the stakes fairly low and blood pressure that's a little too high, Harry Lipkin must figure out whodunit before the thief strikes again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British author Fantoni, once the chief contributor and writer for Private Eye magazine, introduces a most unusual PI, 87-year-old Harry Lipkin, in the first, one hopes, in a light crime series. Norma Weinberger, an affluent widow in her 70s, hires the geriatric gumshoe, who runs his detective agency out of his home in Warmheart, Fla., to look into the theft of a pillbox with sentimental value from her home. Since the most likely culprit is a member of Norma’s staff, Harry interviews the chauffeur, the maid, the butler, the chef, and the gardener in an attempt to uncover financial difficulties that would lead one of them to risk losing his or her cushy job by stealing the item. The headings of the short chapters (“Harry and Mr. Lee Walk to the Kitchen”) reinforce the arch tone. While the ending will surprise few readers, Fantoni doesn’t make the mistake of giving his lead the capacities of a younger man. (July)
Library Journal
Not inclined to retire, 87-year-old Miami PI Harry Lipkin readily takes a case from Mrs. Weinberger, a local dowager who suspects a member of her staff of theft but doesn't know how to proceed. So she hires Harry to investigate. Slowly but methodically, Harry questions everyone from the chauffeur to the gardener, gleaning tidbits as he goes. And so goes the reader: to the boxing club, the racetrack, the dark streets of Miami, and the local hospital. Interviewing retired rabbis, business owners, and others gives Harry a flavor of his client's environment, but not necessarily any definitive clues. A meeting of all parties at the conclusion resolves the case. VERDICT Cleverly modeling his mystery on classic PI novels, Fantoni, a former Private Eye magazine writer and author of several detective novels published in the 1980s, fleshes out a slim semicozy sure to please fans of the genre, particularly those of a certain age. His protagonist's splendid first-person observations about south Florida folks make for a fun afternoon read.
From the Publisher
“I love this man. I want to eat blintzes with him and talk about macular degeneration all day. What I’m trying to say is: This is a seriously funny book.” —A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy

"[A] truly fine detective novel. . . . Startling . . . Moving . . . An offbeat beauty." —Booklist (starred review)
“A quick joy. . . . Harry is an eminently likeable character, and his narration is funny and engaging.” —The A. V. Club
“A book to ponder, as well as to enjoy.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“We admittedly enjoy the cool wave of Nordic crime fiction hitting our shores. But for a change of pace . . . look to sunny Florida, [and] private eye Harry Lipkin.” —New York Post

“Harry Lipkin is the genuine article.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“[Harry Lipkin] is a delightful creation—Philip Marlowe in his late eighties, should he have ever reached them, channeled through Walter Matthau with a touch of George Burns.” —Eurocrime

“Harry gets the job done—as does Fantoni, whose great Jewish humor and astutely detailed observation create a tale that rips along at a pace which Lipkin's hips can only remember with fondness.” —The Independent (London)

“A good deal of gentle fun.” —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


Harry Introduces Himself

Harry Lipkin. Eighty-seven. Eighty-eight next birthday. You think that's old? My mother lived to be a hundred and three. So. Make a note. Send Harry Lipkin a card and a box of soft candy. Something he can chew easy. No nuts. I don't digest nuts. Make yourself at home. Relax. You got some spare time? A little? I got plenty.

When I first started in this business, I rented a place in the center of Miami. Two rooms and a closet. I had a hand-painted sign on the door. Big gold letters: Harry Lipkin. Private Investigator. Standard Rates. It was on the third floor of a block on Camilo Avenue and cost me forty bucks a month.

Now I work from home. My card says 1909 Samuel Gompers Avenue, Warmheart, Florida. There's also a zip code I can never remember. Since no one writes anymore it doesn't bother me. My license I keep in the desk drawer, along with my .38, a box of slugs, my clothes brush, and a spare set of dentures. I might not be the best but I am certainly the oldest.

These days I deal mostly with the sort of cases the cops don't want. Cops want serial homicide. It makes them feel good when they catch someone. But how tough is it to catch a serial killer? You put his picture on TV. Nationwide. You wait. Ten days later a schoolteacher on her lunch break spots him. He's walking out of a Baskin Robbins in a hick town somewhere in Montana. That's him. The guy whose picture was on TV. Before you know it he's surrounded by a million armed cops telling him to drop everything and freeze. And then they shoot him. Ninety-nine cents' worth of vanilla, banana, and pistachio ice cream wasted.

You want to know about my home? The place I leave for the grocery store. The place I come back to from the grocery store. I'll tell you.

Warmheart is an architectural folly. A mix of Flemish and Florida. It was put up by a homesick Belgian called Herman Van Dood. He built it to look just like the town he left behind when the Germans took over in 1914. The houses are single story but with slate roofs thirty feet high. The incline is sixty-five degrees. Everyone else in Miami has a flat roof. You can stand on it and watch the sun go down. On mine you'd need to be a mountaineer.

Last month a hurricane took half the tiles off. Big heavy gray slate tiles. Van Dood imported them from Liege. They landed on the grass. They're still there. Some busted into bits. Some are half buried in what used to be the lawn when I cared about lawns. The tiles don't bother me either. But they bother the woman next door. Mrs. Feldman.

"When you gonna get those tiles put back?" she yells. "You think this is Gaza? It looks like a bomb zone."

I tell Mrs. Feldman I don't pay rent to climb ladders.

So. Here I am. No family and no buddies. Issy. Joe. Angelo from Napoli. Big Mal. Little Mal. Manny. Ike. All gone. My oldest buddy died last Purim. Abe Schultz. Born the same year. Same street. Abe's parents were Dutch Jews. Old man Schultz made cigars. They both had mustaches. His was a handlebar with waxed ends. Hers? Well. You couldn't wax the ends. Abe was a dentist before he retired. He made the spare set I keep in the desk drawer. He only charged me for the materials. Abe was that kind of a mensch.

People ask me. Clients. Usually clients. Clients with time on their hands. Were you ever married? I don't mind. They can ask what they like. I charge by the day.

I did try marriage. But it didn't last. I married Nancy. She had long legs and soft lips. Nancy was twenty years old when we got married. Just twenty. Twenty-one when she walked out. I came home one night late from a stakeout and she was gone. No note. Nothing. Just an empty clothes closet and the faint smell of her ten-cent perfume.

This office has a lot less space than the one I had before. So when I get a client I sit them in the yard. I got a little table and a couple of garden chairs. Plastic with cushions. Yellow. Bright yellow I can see easy. I picked them up in a garage sale. Three bucks and fifty cents. A table and two chairs. For another fifty cents the guy also threw in an umbrella.

Like the suit? I wear it to meet new clients. Brooks Brothers. Seersucker. Classic. 1953. Single-breasted. Loose fit, so the front doesn't go all baggy when I strap on my .38. Perfect for Miami in the summer. It is the same suit that I put on to meet Mrs. Norma Weinberger. Except there was no Mrs. Weinberger.

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Only 153 pages