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A Few Minutes Past Midnight Paperback – July 3, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
Book 21 of 24 in the Toby Peters Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's a mystery how a rumpled, unprepossessing sort of private eye like Toby Peters has lasted long enough to save the hides of Hollywood stars such as the Marx Brothers and Bette Davis, literary luminaries William Faulkner and Dashiell Hammett and even political powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt. Nonetheless, the intrepid sleuth returns for a 21st outing, his first since 1997's A Fatal Glass of Beer. It's 1943, and a beleaguered Charlie Chaplin is in need of Peters's services. A strange man has threatened Chaplin, whose latest movie project, about a serial killer who woos, marries and murders older women, seems to have offended a real-life counterpart. A familiar supporting cast is on hand to aid Peters: massive Jeremy Butler, ex-wrestler-turned-poet; Sheldon Minck, inept dentist and inventor; and Gunther Wherthman, suave, multilingual little person. With broad humor more likely to invite smiles than laughs and a substantial framework of nostalgia (Kaminsky doesn't just throw names around, he really evokes the era), Peters and friends pursue a crafty killer. Older readers will enjoy references that may be obscure to younger ones. For example, Peters drives a Crosley that "runs on washing machine and refrigerator parts," a reference to the defunct Crosley Co. that manufactured radios, refrigerators and appliances as well as cars. In sum, the author's facile competence has produced an amusing story full of suitable heroics. (Aug. 1)novels, including ongoing series about Russian policeman Porfiry Rostnikov, Chicago cop Abe Lieberman and Jim Rockford of TV's Rockford Files.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In December 1943, Charlie Chaplin is not the most popular man in America. He's never become an American citizen; he's a Communist sympathizer; and he has just married a much younger woman. When a man shows up at Chaplin's home wielding a knife, the actor hires private investigator Toby Peters. The trail leads to a serial killer who targets older women--which just happens to be the theme of a script Chaplin is hoping to film. Toby, with his crew of amateur assistants--among them a poetic ex-wrestler, a well-armed midget, and a dentist--finds himself drowning in false clues as the case becomes ever more muddled. Kaminsky is an Edgar-winning author of 60 mystery novels in four detective series. Toby Peters may be his best-known character and is arguably his most endearing. Peters is an everyman with bills, an ex-wife he still misses, a drab room in a cheap boardinghouse, and a surprisingly optimistic view of the future. He's a good guy with a sense of humor, and every appearance he makes is a welcome one. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (July 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752849824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752849829
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,464,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema--two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life's work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life.

Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as "the anti-Philip Marlowe." In 1981's Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read my first Toby Peters' story twenty-five years ago. It was A BULLET FOR A STAR, and I immediately fell in love with him, the characters that surround him, the world he lives in, and with the writing of the author who created him.
During that twenty-five years, Toby has managed to star in twenty mystery adventures (each with its own celebrity guest star) while only aging five fictional years.
That is why its strange that the characters seen to have aged and changed so much in the time between this novel and previous one, A FATAL GLASS OF BEER. Maybe, the war or personal concerns are wearing them down. Or maybe it's the fact that the Golden Era of Hollywood is winding to a close. Or maybe, we, the readers and the author, are just growing old. I hope not, Toby Peters exists in a time warp that Stuart Kaminsky, his creator was always able to capture so perfectly. Besides, I still have hopes that someone in television will finally realize that Toby's adventures would make a GREAT television series.
Anyway, return to a wartime Hollywood in 1943 - Charlie Chaplin is Toby's latest co-star and client - and it seems as if someone has borrowed the plot of Lady Killer, Chaplin's latest movie project, for a real life murder spree. Now all Toby and his cast of supporting players (a midget, a giant and a mad dentist) have to do is catch the killer before he completes his gruesome project.
While this book was not up to par with earlier Toby Peter's adventures, I still enjoyed it and I encourage you to give it a try and meet Toby and his associates. By the way, though Toby does not meet his next client at the end of this book as he usually does, I understand that the next adventure will co-star the lord of the jungle himself, Johnny Weismuller. And I can't wait!
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Stuart Kaminsky's mysteries, but I started with the Toby Peters series, and I reread several of them frequently. It's been quite a few years since the last entry in the series--the excellent "A Fatal Glass of Beer"--an I was beginning to wonder is Kaminsky had simply lost interest in Peters. Admittedly, the Peters books are often slight affairs. Kaminsky's Rostnikov and Leiberman books, while displaying the same talent for colorful characters and fast-moving plots, are weightier, and present a coherent--if often melancholy--worldview.
This long-awaited return to the Peters series suggests, I think, that Kaminsky is having trouble getting back into the more light-hearted spirit of the earlier books. The usual wonderful characters are all here, but they're aging; Shelly is depressed, Gunther may soon move away, Jeremy's wife is getting more and more concerned about his health. Toby's brother Phil and his ex-wife Ann are showing the years, too, and the weary resignation that has always been present in the Rostnikov books is now almost as dominant here.
Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the book, I recommend the book, and I'm happy to see these characters again. But it seems appropriate that the celebrity guest here is Chaplin, whose humor has always been tinged with pathos and an awareness of mortality. I have to wonder if this is Kaminsky's farewell to his first series character.
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Format: Hardcover
At last! A new "Toby Peters". I've been a fan since the first ("Bullet for a Star") and have every last one except "You Bet Your Life" (which has been stolen from me... twice!) in first editions. Sure, Kaminsky writes other books of greater depth and more realistic characters. Sure, the Peters books are formula. And, sure, we get idealized portraits of the movie stars Peters deals with, instead of anything resembling in-depth studies of them that we might expect from film-historian Kaminsky. But, so what! For pure unadulterated FUN there has never been a series to equal it! If you're a film fan, hell, if you've ever seen a movie made before 1980, you're gonna love this one (and all the others in the series). Keep up the good work Mr. K., and fergoshsakes, let's not have another half decade between adventures!
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Format: Hardcover
Toby Peters, private detective, is a hard-boiled, middle-aged, ex-cop, divorced, scarred physically and emotionally. Private detectives of essentially the same description may be found in the works of Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, James Lee Burke, Steve Hamilton and even Sue Grafton, among others, but somehow Stuart Kaminsky manages to make Toby Peters seem brand new each time out.
In each of the series Toby Peters is hired by a person famous in the 1930s or 1940s. Among his clients have been Salvatore Dali, the Marx Brothers, Eleanor Roosevelt, W.C. Fields and Humphrey Bogart. In this book, Charlie Chaplin hires Toby Peters to find out who is threatening the life of the clown genius. In every case, the famous person is great fun.
The plots are more or less the same in each book, but somehow they feel new. At least, they feel okay. The atmosphere and the characters are what the reader finds interesting. Peters has a semi-deaf landlady who thinks he is an exterminator and book editor. In the same rooming house is a midget who works as a literary translater. Peters rents office space with an incompetent dentist who smokes cigars as he tortures unsuspecting patients. An ex-pornographer has offices upstairs. A mechanic known as "no neck" works on the detective's car. Peters wanders through a world of greasy restaurants, partiaking of tacos and Pepsi. He listens to period radio shows and drives a Crosley. It is a wonderful world of nostalgia, jeopardy, and humor. There is no one quite like Kaminsky, and I would recommend his books to any mystery reader.
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