Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Night At The Operation - Jeffrey Cohen

A Night At The Operation
A Double Feature Mystery
Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley Prime Crime


All things considered, there are plenty of things Elliott Freed, owner and operator of the independent movie house Comedy Tonight, would rather do than have a conversation with his ex-wife’s soon-to-be-ex-husband. When the future-ex, Dr. Gregory Sandoval, calls Elliott and tells him that Sharon, his almost-ex is missing, Elliott figures that Sharon is just ducking Gregory’s calls. After all, he just saw Sharon at her medical practice yesterday. After essentially hanging up on Gregory, he calls Sharon’s place and leaves a message on her machine, largely concerning Gregory’s general unsuitability as anyone’s life partner.

When he doesn’t get an answer for a while, he starts to worry. When the police call to tell him that Sharon is officially missing (which, apparently, is more missing than just evidently missing) he’s really worried. Unlike most ex-spouses, Elliott and Sharon took great care to keep in touch and be friendly after their divorce. It’s not like her to just disappear. Thinking back on his last visit to her office, Elliott remembers that Sharon was uncharacteristically short and seemed to have something on her mind. In his experience, the only thing that can bring about that change in her is being worried about a patient. As it happens, a patient is dead, and it could be murder. Elliott categorically refuses to believe that Sharon could be responsible, and sets out to set the record straight.

Since most of Elliott’s life revolves around his movie house, much of the book takes place there. Mr. Cohen does an incredible job of depicting the interpersonal dramas of Elliott’s teenaged (high school and college) staff. In particular, he nails the reaction a high school girl has with both her first love and dealing with her mother. Since I can only assume that Mr. Cohen has never been a teenaged girl himself, that makes the feat even more impressive.

This is the third in a series (SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED, IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE) but newcomers will have no problems getting up to speed. The mystery begins almost immediately, moves quickly, and takes some very unexpected turns. Movie buffs will obviously enjoy the various references to classic comedies and the “Further Funny Film Facts For Fanatics” at the end give insights into classic comedies and should be of help when it’s time to rent a movie. I had no idea there were so many great, classic comedies I haven’t seen (yet.) If you’re not a film buff, you can still enjoy the mystery and characters on their own merits.

Rating: 7
April 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22815-9 (paperback)


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