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Harry Lipkin, Private Eye: A Novel Hardcover – July 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] truly fine detective novel—....[the ending is] as startling to Harry as it is to readers. It’s moving, too, and that’s another break from the classic rules of the game. An offbeat beauty.”
--Booklist, starred review

About the Author

BARRY FANTONI was the chief contributor and writer for Private Eye magazine, and a diary cartoonist for the Times. He is the author of several detective novels published in the 1980s, one of which was published in the United States.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385536100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385536103
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,531,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Zoeeagleeye VINE VOICE on November 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When you are reading a novel written in the first person, you'd better like that person or you'll be very dissatisfied. Harry Lipkin did not disappoint. At 87 he is an admirable role model for those of us over 60, maybe even over 50.

Of course it is de riguer to have as much sex and violence in today's stories as possible. But how much sex and violence can an 87 year old man get up to, unless he is psycho? So we get one decapitation and one midnight visitation, both taking place at a nice, easy pace and both told discreetly.

I enjoyed the nice, easy pace. The present world is moving much too fast, with only time enough to grab at (and often miss) whatever is zooming by that interests you, whether it is a new invention, a TV show, a website, a sentence, a latte or a grandchild. Reading this book felt restful and never boring. I enjoyed the characters and their secrets, the slow, dogged way Harry investigated and, of course, the humor. I laughed out loud a few times.

Now the downside. The big one is the ending. That's where the shaggie doggedness comes in, delivering the denoument to you so that you realize the author was not dogged enough. Surely another answer to the theft could have been found with a little extra creativity, patience and persistence! It didn't ruin the book, although I have to say that at the very first theft I knew who the thief was. It was the only thing that made sense to me, while still hoping I was wrong.

Fantoni is content, however, with being merely glib and humorous. Maybe it's his age. He doesn't seem to know that much about police procedure, having Harry leave his prints all over everything without a thought. Fantoni occasionally tries to be hard-boiled, but doesn't bring it off. There's a reason for that.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Most eighty-seven year olds live in condos, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes. Not Harry Lipkin, the first-person narrator of "Harry Lipkin, Private Investigator," by Barry Fantoni. Harry is a licensed P. I. who has a .38 with ammunition and a spare set of dentures. He works out of his rented home in Warmheart, Florida. Harry has no family, friends, or hobbies and retirement is not an option. Since his mother lived to be 103, he figures that he has a few good years left. Lipkin dresses in vintage clothing (Brooks Brothers seersucker, single-breasted, 1953) and drives a forty-year old Chevy Impala. He moves slowly, but sooner or later he reaches his destination.

This former cop turned gumshoe meets a new client, wealthy widow Norma Weinberger (her late husband, Isaac, made hats). She believes that one of her staff is stealing from her, and she wants Harry to nail the culprit. The suspects include Mrs. Weinberger's Asian butler, Ethiopian Jewish cook, tattoo-laden gardener, Spanish maid, and African-American chauffeur. Norma gives Harry a hundred dollar bill as a retainer and he takes the case. He interviews everyone in Mrs. Weinberger's employ, checks their backgrounds, and even shadows one of them. Any one of them could have stolen from the boss, but who has the most compelling motive?

The author's empathy for the elderly and for anyone just struggling to get by shines through. This is a concise, charming, and gentle story about a man who could easily sit around all day at the beach sipping his tea with lemon, but instead chooses to remain active. Considering the fact that he is pushing ninety, Harry is still sharp, observant, and pretty good at what he does. Is he an octogenarian Sherlock Holmes? Not by a long shot. However, readers will enjoy spending time with this wryly humorous character who never takes himself nor life too seriously.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This mystery novel has a hero with an unusual twist - at 87 years old he is "the world's oldest detective", living in Warmheart, Florida (surely not a real name for a town?!). He now has no living family, hardly any living friends and his memories and music are all still rooted firmly in the 1930's/1940's. Still, he is a working private eye, taking cases the police don't want and working from his home. Cases such as that of his most recent client, Mrs Weinberger, the elderly and wealthy widow of a famous hat maker, now retired to Florida. Someone in her house has been stealing from her and Harry has a list of suspects - a chauffeur, a butler, a maid, a chef and a gardener, who all have the motive of needing some extra money for various reasons.

The joy in this novel is not with the plot, so much as the humorous and charming character of Harry himself. Most of his information comes from acquaintances as old as he is and, what follows, is an entertaining and enjoyable story, with lots of humour and a well paced plot. I would certainly be interested to read more of Harry's adventures and, hopefully, judging by the end of this novel, there are more to come.
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Format: Hardcover
Barry Fantoni is an artist who has not limited himself to any particular medium. A musician, poet and cartoonist, he has also demonstrated an interest in detective fiction, manifested most recently by the publication of HARRY LIPKIN, PRIVATE EYE, which, like its author, is quirky and extremely entertaining.

Fantoni is British-born but understands the United States, specifically Florida. His Harry Lipkin character is a soft-boiled protagonist (that's a compliment, not a criticism) who is an 87-year-old private investigator operating out of a ramshackle apartment home office in an older section (demographically and geographically) of Miami. Harry takes at whim whatever case and client might strike his fancy; while never explicitly stated, one gets the idea that he does what he does because 1) he has done it for most of his adult life, and 2) what else would he do?

The client who drives the plot is Norma Weinberger, the wealthy widow of the deceased owner of a world-famous hat factory. Norma's problem is that she has a thief in the house who is stealing trinkets, geegaws and extremely valuable jewelry from her on a regular basis. Harry does not lack for suspects, given that Norma is of an age and station where she has people working for her, such as her chauffeur, who supposedly moonlights as a boxer; a somewhat shady gardener; a cook; and a maid who doubles as a...

If it sounds to you a bit like a game of Clue without a body, you would be right; the fun here is watching the detective methodically work his way through potential motives and alibis, making a list and checking it twice (or three times, if need be) and eliminating this or that suspect for one reason or another.
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