A review of Double Forté by Aaron Paul Lazar

Although described as a mystery, Double Forté is more properly described as an action thriller. There is no detection as such, the climax of the book resulting from a gratuitous confession. Gus LeGarde, a professor of music and head of a very mixed household, triumphs more through physical courage than any particular ratiocinative powers.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Double Forté: A Gus LeGarde Mystery
by Aaron Paul Lazar
PublishAmerica
2004, ISBN 1-4137-2838-3, 263 pages

This is Lazar’s first published work but other titles in this series are in preparation. He is currently working as an electrophotographic engineer.

Although described as a mystery, Double Forté is more properly described as an action thriller. There is no detection as such, the climax of the book resulting from a gratuitous confession. Gus LeGarde, a professor of music and head of a very mixed household, triumphs more through physical courage than any particular ratiocinative powers.

Animals play a major role in Double Forté. In fact, the story opens as Legarde and Siegfried, his brother-in-law, rescue a dog from a trap. Legarde goes to a nearby house to use a phone and encounters Edward Baxter who is so surly that he arouses Legarde’s suspicions and prompts his return later to spy on him, an action that results in the rescue of a child that Baxter has held prisoner. Legarde thereby earns Baxter’s enmity, no insignificant occurrence since Baxter is a psychopath who has killed his wife and kidnapped Sadie, his daughter. Much of the book involves Baxter’s determination to have revenge and to recover Sadie.

But, although this is the situation around which much of the book revolves, Lazar brings us into the household of the protagonist and narrator. This household consists of Siegfried, twin brother of LeGarde’s dead wife; LeGarde’s daughter Freddie; her irascible and unpleasant husband Harold; and their son, a two-year-old named Johnny. Legarde’s secretary Maddy has a daughter Camille – a young woman with problems as severe as those of Legarde who still mourns the death of his wife Elsbeth – and the two local policemen, Joe Russell and Adam round out the cast of main characters. There are others who appear in the book and it is much to Lazar’s credit that, with such a large cast, the reader has no difficulty in keeping them straight.

In the relationships of these men and women, children, dogs, cats and horses, the relationship between LeGarde and Camille occupies the foreground. He is still in mourning and she struggles to recover from a marriage to a brutal husband. The reawakening and the healing of these two are convincingly portrayed but sit a little tenuously within the thriller framework.

Siegfried suffered an injury as a boy that deprived him of his full mental ability but left him with a childlike amiability of character. On this villainous practices are made and that part of the book not spent on Baxter and the development of the relationship between LeGarde and Camille involves the threats and dangers to which he is exposed.

It is, in short, a curiously mixed book. It does not dig deeply but it manages to carry the reader along. Lazar is a gifted storyteller and writes good clear English. Although the book is eminently readable, the focus is not always certain and it is sometimes a little surprising to read that the Legarde home has broad pine floorboards or that his bedside light has a cranberry shade. Such information, mistakenly designed to communicate ideas of place, are grasped by the scruff of the neck and thrust willy-nilly into the book. The effect is mildly jarring. But the merits of the novel make up for this generously and present a new and attractive writer of entertainments.

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His book Joyce Country, a guide to persons and places, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places

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