A review of I Right the Wrongs by Dylan Schaffer

This is abundant material for an author to keep moving and free of tangles. Schaffer manages to keep the mixture interesting and allows enough interplay to keep all parts of his groupings functional. Seegerman’s father, for example, was a former detective deeply involved in the murder case of 1988. Through the wall of dementia that surrounds him he is able to give Seegerman tantalizingly incomplete clues about this past event.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

I Right the Wrongs
by Dylan Schaffer
Bloomsbury Publishing 2005, ISBN 1-58234-506-6, $23.95, 355 pages

This is the author’s third book. He draws on his own experience as a lawyer and on a rich tradition of books whose purposes are to puzzle and to entertain. Although there is an English form of this, the American form is noted for uncomplicated diction, a use of amusingly unexpected similes and a dry humor. Schaffer is very comfortable with all this. He knows the moves and executes them with grace.

The hero is the professedly unheroic Gordon Seegerman of the Santa Rita Public Defenders office. He is a champion under-achiever whose main passions are reunion with his ex-girlfriend Silvie and his part in a Barry Manilow tribute band. There is a lot about Barry Manilow and how good he is, what a skillful musician, what a great artist. The band has a gig in Las Vegas at the same time that Barry Manilow will be performing there and this will be the culmination of the bands’ collective obsession. Across this perfect and glorious plan emerges the case of Marcus Manning, a black football star from one of the local high schools. He has allegedly abducted the mascot of Saint Illuminatus, a prestigious, mostly white, high school in Santa Rita. Complications develop and it appears that they might prevent fulfillment of the Las Vegas appearance.

The complication is a murder. The solution of the crime involves investigation of another murder committed and never solved some years before. The interplay between past and present is smoothly managed and Schaffer parades before the reader a colorful assortment of characters – a black politician who is campaigning for mayor, the enigmatic Marcus Manning, a corrupt cop and one that appears honest but may in fact be even more corrupt. These are part of the external cast as it were. There are two other groups of men and women – one consists of Seegerman’s family and includes a father deep in the wilds of Alzheimer’s disease. The other group consists of the band members – a super-geek, one of the investigators from Seegerman’s office and the singer, massively pregnant and unrelievedly furious and profane about it. It is because of her pregnancy that the band searches for a temporary replacement singer. After many auditions, Seegerman convinces Sylvie to be the replacement despite the complex emotional relationship between them.

This is abundant material for an author to keep moving and free of tangles. Schaffer manages to keep the mixture interesting and allows enough interplay to keep all parts of his groupings functional. Seegerman’s father, for example, was a former detective deeply involved in the murder case of 1988. Through the wall of dementia that surrounds him he is able to give Seegerman tantalizingly incomplete clues about this past event.

Everything rings true and Seegerman’s honesty as narrator is refreshingly unpretentious. The scope of the author’s vision is similarly remarkable and is such as to be found in only the best examples for books of crime and detection. Every reader who wants entertainment of a high order will enjoy this novel.

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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