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    Review of THE RIGHT MADNESS by James Crumley

    Viking, May 2005

    When his best friend asks him to look into an apparently minor theft, private detective CW Sughrue resists. But Mac insists and seems genuinely worried that the loss of his counseling tapes might lead to blackmail--or worse. Sughrue's investigations take a turn for the worse when the suspects start to die unexpectedly. There has to be a connection, but Sughrue can't figure it out--but he keeps worrying after what few leads he can find. When Mac becomes a suspect in another suspect's murder, Sughrue vows to continue on--despite having a missing, or even dead, client.

    Sughrue's investigation takes him into America's underside. He turns to alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs in an effort to keep his sanity in a world where sanity seems more of a handicapp than an advantage. Meanwhile, his newly long-distance marriage is crumbling and Sugrue discovers a strange knack for having beautiful women throw themselves at him. Some of that throwing is sexual, some involves attacks and pain, and some is a weird mix of the two.

    Author James Crumley maintains a hard-boiled and attitude-filled style throughout this fascinating, but frustrating story. Literally none of the characters is really admirable, let alone heroic. But Sughrue's gradual disillusioning would have had a greater impact if he'd been shown to hold many illusions in the first place. Similarly, the mystery itself sees as disjointed as Sughrue's drug-baffled mind. It is a credit to Crumley's wordsmithing skills that he is able to maintain reader interest in what is a sometimes frustrating read.

    Fans of hard-boiled detective fiction will find a lot to enjoy in THE RIGHT MADNESS. It's worth the read, but I would have liked to see a bit more consistent logic in Sughrue's search for the truth.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 9/09/05

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