Why Stop the Vengeance?
(A Donald Strachey Mystery — Volume 14)
Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64)]
Reviewed by Robert Keller (Albania 2008–09)
Well, I’m hooked. I put down Why Stop at Vengeance? ready to pick up another Donald Strachey mystery novel. And if the others are anything like this one, then they’re perfect summertime, beach reads. The lead, Donald Strachey, is a good-at-heart but slightly ambiguous private detective who rolls around Albany, NY getting into and out of trouble with less than reputable characters. Some are saints, others are down toward the other end of the spectrum.
Why Stop at Vengeance? centers around an unholy alliance of right wing Christian zealots who spend millions to terrorize African countries with anti-gay propaganda and legislation. Strachey comes to the aid of a poor African man under political asylum; a man who, in the first few pages of the book, wants to torch the missionary’s disreputable church in retaliation for gay friends and past lovers who died as a result of mob violence in the wake of the religious uprising. As Strachey delves deeper into the mystery of the missionaries, various dangers and challenges are thrown his way.
It was a fun book to read, and I devoured it within a few days. If it had a flaw, it was the over use of suspension of disbelief. At one point Strachey meets a scumbag in a bar and within a few days hires the man to help him pull off a job. Even though it’s evident he already knows lots of smart, shady people that either owe him favors or would happily do a job for him if paid. Yet he hires an idiot? It basically works within the story, but I mentally chuckled at how unlikely anyone else would be to hire someone for such a pivotal caper. There is also a computer hacker friend who can get into any database, anywhere, anytime, within a few hours of trying. And the denouement is a little . . . too neat and tidy. All the bad guys are REALLY BAD; instead of just being disillusioned or overtly religious, they’re rolling in sin, ill-gotten money, and scams.
But that being said, after I finished it and the more I thought about it the more I liked it. The plot worked well, the writing was tight, and it felt like it fit in its universe. Other, previous cases — other Donald Strachey novels, that is —were brought up and mentioned in the natural flow of character conversations. The timeline felt real and the people were believable, even if some of their actions and outcomes were questionable, nothing was way out in left field.
Definitely worth a read. And possibly turning a page or two of his other works as well.
Reviewer Robert Keller is a business analyst by profession, with a little writing and consulting thrown in on the side for fun. He published his Peace Corps memoir, Only Bees Die: Peace Corps Eastern Europe, in 2010.