“Mainely Money” is a standard Smalltown America Private Detective novel, for the most part well written and very entertaining. The plot involves the title character of the series, Goff Langdon, and his friends who live in a small town in Maine. As we might expect, he takes on a case that turns out to be more than in seems, and the plot starts to twist. Deftly-handled standard themes sweep us away: threats to his family, a beautiful temptress, mysterious hitmen, Russian gangsters. All meshed together in a case that gets more and more implausible as he digs into it. And then it all blows wide open in a beautifully described gunfight.
Something that I find refreshing is that there is no “poor PI trying to make ends meet” conflict. This guy runs a bookstore as well, and between the two jobs, he seems to be doing just fine.
A real strength of this novel is the characterization. There is a fairly large cast of secondary characters, but they are all well differentiated, so it’s easy to keep them straight. Topping it all is the relationship between the hero and his wife, which is sweet, abrasive, and witty.
Plus, of course, there’s a dog. Named “dog.” No capital. He used to be called doG, but it became too much hassle to explain it all the time. Which is to indicate that there’s a great vein of rather acute humour running through the novel. I was quite sorry when the conflict increased to the point that nobody was funny anymore, but humour reduces tension, and Mr. Cost was too busy turning up the screws on the suspense to indulge.
However, you will have noted at the top I said, “for the most part well written.” The great characters and detailed setting come at a price. There is too much description and far too much explanation. The chapter where the political movers and shakers discuss their machinations starts out with five excruciating pages of American military procurement procedure before the dialogue (only five pages) starts.
Other than that, this is an enjoyable example of its genre, with far more depth of character and theme than most.(4 / 5)