Review: “Mink Eyes,” Max McBride

Pros: Slow unraveling of an interesting plot
Cons: Some overwrought language
Rating: 4 out of 5

NOTE: Publisher provided book for review.


First, I have to get this out of my system. I’ve read a fair amount of erotic romance, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quote quite this bad:

…the genitals’ cry of loss…

I just… I can’t stop laughing, and I really don’t think that was what the author was going for! Pardon me while I regain my composure… ahem.

Max McBride’s Mink Eyes is a tale of private detective Pete O’Keefe. He’s just keeping his head above water, and is starting to have to make hard choices as to what jobs he will and won’t take, which of his employees he’ll put in charge of what, and so on. His lifelong good friend and lawyer sets him up with a new job looking into, of all things, a mink farm. The man running it had been convincing people to invest in pairs of minks that would “do what came naturally” (produce lots of baby minks) and thus also produce lots of pelts to sell. Now it seems he was running a Ponzi scheme in which he was using the money from each new investor to pay off the old ones, and of course he allowed people to re-invest. Apparently his latest investor was much more of a heavy-hitter, and now that the place is out of money, the scam artist is nowhere to be found. The investors hiring Pete include the father of the scam artist’s wife, Tag, and Pete concentrates on finding her. He may be about to end up in over his head, however. He has had trouble with drink and drugs in the past, and he isn’t a stellar father to his 10-year-old girl. Add in a femme fatale, some well-armed goons, and a whole lot of temptation and things could go downhill in a hurry.

The initial pace yields a sort of gentle, rolling feel, especially at first. It’s thoughtful and provides a somewhat different view of private detective work rather than the stereotype of the lone gunman. Instead, Pete is an ex-druggie, ex-hippie, ex-Marine (Vietnam) who has never quite lost some of his idealistic fantasies and who has battled some serious depression. Actually, he still deals with it within the scope of this story, and yes, it does make the story itself rather depressing for a while.

Finally Pete gets shot at while he’s with his daughter, Kelly, on Halloween night, leaving him little choice but to go in search of Tag again, who first seduced him and then ran off without him earlier in the tale. He hunts down and has to face the idea that the bad guys who are after Tag are much worse than he expected, and he’s almost certainly getting in over his head. I like the fact that the story doesn’t downplay how out of his league he is.

This might not be the best thriller ever, but I love the idea of a mink farm Ponzi scheme. There’s just so much whimsical creativity in that. And that gentle, rolling pace for the first while is unusual and interesting. As long as you don’t mind wallowing in a bit of someone else’s depression–which isn’t always what one is ready for–you might enjoy this read.

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