Book Review: The Paradise Affair by Bill Pronzini
By Ray PalenFebruary 12, 2021
In the ninth book in Bill Pronzini’s Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery series, John and Sabina track a lead to the island paradise of Hawaii. But as bodies begin to pile up, the detective duo begins to wonder if they will leave paradise in one piece…
The islands that make up Hawaii are often referred to as ‘paradise’. You can just imagine how much of an impact the place had on people in the States back in the year 1898. That is the premise of Bill Pronzini’s latest installment in his Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon series. The two private detectives from San Francisco have an opportunity to follow a lead in a case to Hawaii. For them, the islands of the Aloha State will be far from paradise.
Not only is it their first visit to Hawaii but also their first time on a cruise ship. Sabina loves it but John has not gotten his sea legs yet and spends most of the trip in bed dealing with the queasiness that comes from seasickness. The one thing John Quincannon cannot abide is failure and that is the primary reason for their trip. They were supposed to be protecting the interests of their client R.W. Anderson from two con men who went by various guises but were known to Sabina and John as Lonesome Jack Vereen and Nevada Ned. They end up fleecing Mr. Anderson and then board a ship to Hawaii, hence the need for our protagonists to pursue them.
They end up meeting a nice couple on the crossing, the Pritchard’s, who invite them to stay in their lovely guest house during their stay in Hawaii. Sabina and John accept and eventually let the Pritchard’s understand that they are private detectives. While Sabina stays with the Pritchard’s, John heads into the main town to try and track down the two swindlers. Not knowing the territory at all, he reaches out to a local PI named Fenner who is able to get Quincannon valuable information. It appears that the two men he is pursuing have hooked up with a local rancher named Millay.
Things do not get off to a great start as Quincannon’s first discovery is the dead body of Nevada Ned in a hotel room, allegedly the victim of an overdose. Now, he must focus on Lonesome Jack and that will mean taking a long journey to Millay’s ranch to find out what is going on. Meanwhile, Sabina’s relaxing stay is short-lived when the Pritchard’s next-door neighbor is found dead in his study from a supposed self-inflicted gunshot wound. Something about this does not sit right with Sabina and her PI instincts kick in as she begins to dig deeper into this death.
When John Quincannon finds something unexpected in a cave on the property of Millay’s ranch, he realizes things may not be what he originally expected and now finds his own life in danger. At the same time, Sabina reveals evidence that the neighbor may have been murdered which also puts her in a precarious situation. Pronzini pens this in true crime noir fashion and the turn of the previous century time period is an ideal setting for some great old school detective work—that is if Sabina and John can escape from paradise in one piece!