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Wake Up Little Susie Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
Book 3 of 10 in the Sam McCain Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1957 perhaps the only thing worse than a new Ford Edsel is a new Ford Edsel with a dead body in the trunk. Veteran crime writer Gorman painstakingly evokes small-town America in the late '50s for this nostalgic prequel to The Day the Music Died. Sam McCain is a young lawyer and PI in quiet Black River Falls, Iowa. Susan Squires is the body discovered in the ill-fated new car while the whole town is engaged in a parade sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Though the police are called to the crime scene, the bumbling efforts of the ruthless sheriff lead the local judge to assign Sam to the case on the q.t. Sam's prime suspect is Susan's abusive husband, David, a politically ambitious DA. Then David dies, and suspicion shifts to his ex-wife and to Susan's ex-lover. Gorman spends more time polishing up the period details, delving into the town's social intrigues and recounting Sam's love life than he does advancing the murder investigation. But his subplots converge when Mary Travers, a young woman who loves Sam and who was Susan Squire's best friend, vanishes. Gorman's assured prose fits his subject like a tailored suit. He mentions every song playing on the car radio as young couples neck in back seats, and the overall effect is a lot like a Bob Greene newspaper column set inside a mystery. Though the investigation moves slowly, Gorman's depiction of the town's rivalries keeps the tension strong. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Iowa lawyer/private investigator Sam McCain has plenty of clues and suspects in the murder of an ambitious county attorney's wife but can't quite put them together. An evocative return to the 1950s and sequel to The Day the Music Died (LJ 1/99).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425178552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425178553
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.7 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,090,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This prequel to The Day the Music Died isn't quite as good as the first book, but it's still very, very good. As usual, Gorman creates a fantastic, vivid cast of characters, each with their own particular quirks that place them just left of center, and sets them all down in a compelling murder mystery. The period detail seems to capture the 50s without being heavy-handed. Let's hope there are many more Sam McCain novels to come in the future.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
What could be better than life in Black River Falls, Iowa on a September Saturday in 1957? The new car of the future, the Edsel, is being introduced to the town at the local Ford dealership and there's balloons, hog callers and marching bands, baton twirlers, cub scouts and tap-dancing twins. Unfortunately, there's also the dead body of Susan Squires in the trunk of one of the new Edsels. Sam McCain, a young lawyer who's earning most of his income with his private investigator's license, is asked to look into the murder. In no time, he's got way too many suspects, among them the victim's husband, David. But, soon David turns up dead too and McCain's highschool honey, Mary, goes missing and Sam sets out on a mission to solve the case and find his sweetheart, before it's too late..... Ed Gorman has written an entertaining mystery that will transport you back to those nostalgic days of the 1950s. His writing is crisp and smart and full of witty and irreverent dialogue; his plot, tense and full of surprises and his scenes, vivid and at times, laugh-out loud funny. But it's Mr Gorman's characters that are the real strength of this novel. From the brandy sipping, cigarette smoking, rubberband shooting judge to the fat, bully of a sherriff with a skin condition, who only got the job because his father runs the town, to McCain's best friend, Jeff who's backing out of his engagement because his fiance might not be a virgin, this is a cast of unrivaled, quirky denizens you won't soon forget. Wake Up Little Susie is the second book of a terrific new series, full of small town detail and 1950's wisdom, that shouldn't be missed.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This murder mystery contains all the necessary elements. A clever, likeable investigator who does double duty as narrator. A clearly delineated sense of time and place. An intriguing murder with a number of potential suspects. And a surprise ending which, if not entirely convincing, is at least plausible on some level.
Sam McCain is a 23 year old private eye who also happens to be a lawyer. He loves the small Iowa town in which he grew up and where he still lives. Almost everyone is fond of Sam and his only discernible vice is that he smokes too much. When a woman's body is found in the trunk of an Edsel, Sam is pressed into service to find the killer. As the investigation unfolds, there are many scenes which serve to evoke the feel of life in smalltown America in the 1950s. Moreover, author Ed Gorman gives us a fair amount of good natured humor and the occasional moment of poignancy.
For me, two words sum up the mood of this novel, breezy and nostalgic. Gorman has done a competent, workmanlike job in writing this book. Somehow though, after turning the last page, I felt vaguely unsatisfied. It was as if I had completed a tasty meal and still felt just as hungry as I was when I started. Or as the precocious Sam McCain might have put it, "I guess nostalgia isn't what it used to be".
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fun book, with a novel story line, great humor and a credible small-town mess of characters. The fun is in the reading, not in detecting. The author is not absolutely surefooted about his time period of 1957, but who cares? Good reading with a gin and tonic in hand.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Right off the bat I have to say the writing style just didn't work for me. It tried to be conversational but I felt that it was just a little weird. People may well disagree with me and that's fine I just don't like it when the actual narration is written conversationally on top of conversational dialogue.

I like the idea of this book but at the same time I think the namedropping of famous things and people leads into dangerous territory. When you rely heavily on ideas that aren't your own to make the story appealing you risk making it ... not appealing. This book definitely strayed into the "not appealing" territory on more than one occasion. I think the author was trying to be funny and I did laugh at parts but I think some of it really should have been dialed back.

The story is OK. The plot is OK. The characters teeter. Those who are interested in the 50s may want to check it out but I'm not sure if it would appeal to a wider audience as it currently is.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a very special 'private eye' series build around a lawyer and special court investigator, Sam McCain, in a small town in the midwest (Iowa) in the fifties and sixties. I absolutely love this series for several reasons:

1. the wonderful immersion into a different time, spanning a decade from the late fifties to the late sixties. The descriptions are detailed, evocative, engaging and realistic. They are exceptionally well done.
2. The protagonist is a likeable average joe, who is easy to identify with and tells the stories in the first person. His back story is as engaging and interesting as the murder mysteries he gets involved in, and has become the main reason why I have become hooked on this series.
3. There are plenty of connections to the pop culture of the fifties and sixties, which is a bonus for any lover of music, books, cinema and culture of the period.
4. The mysteries are well crafted and keep you guessing until the end.
5. Every single one of the entries in these series is excellent without exception and well worth the read.

Give this a try, you won't regret it. I read all 9 books in 2 months and can't wait for the 10th entry, 'Riders' on the Storm', that will appear in October 2014! I hope Mr. Gorman gets the opportunity to write several more before he retires.
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