Once again, I bought a pig in a poke, figuratively speaking, when I decided to read Richard Brawer's "The Greedy Pig" based solely on the title and the fact that it was being offered for free temporarily as a promotion. And this pig definitely did fly, in a clever and witty story that serves as a good introduction to Brawer's series detective character.
The book is a collection of two Brawer works, a novelette, "The Greedy Pig," and a short story, "Her Final Step." The former takes up about 75% of the book. "Pig" is a mystery featuring David Nance, a private investigator whose primary job appears to be more selling and installing security devices but does some traditional gumshoeing on the side. He lives and works in a rather swanky area of New Jersey among the old money, country club crowd.
If Nance seems out of place there, the murder victim in "Pig" definitely was. Silas Hobbs was a pig farmer whose farm, smack dab in the middle of affluence, was just what it sounds like and a constant eyesore (and odor producing nose sore) to his neighbors. Those neighbors included his fellow family members, since Silas' farm was actually his share of the family's former estate, the remainder of which went to his siblings and their families. More than a mere embarrassment, Silas' farm was an actual drain on the property values of the adjacent land owners. Seemingly everyone had a motive for wanting Silas dead, a motive as plain as the nose on Nance's face.
Brawer is an entertaining storyteller, and the strength of "Pig" is not the actual mystery (whose resolution leaves much to be desired), but the casual anecdotes that Brawer tosses out one after another. The fairly short work talks about the area's history in Revolutionary War days and even farther back, to the days when Captain Kidd roamed the shores. I have no idea how true any of this is, but it sounds entertaining and Brawer's asides make for fast paced breezy reading. Mystery fans who prefer actual detective work to local color will also enjoy Nance's initial investigation of the crime scene, in which he rather shrewdly deduces that what seemed like an accidental death was actually murder.
Brawer includes a second story, "Her Final Step," in this fairly short work. This is not a story about Nance, but, rather, a stand-alone mini-mystery about an old woman who appears to have been cleverly murdered in the nursing home where she resided. Although the setting is quite different than that of "Greedy Pig," in both cases the victim was well to do with a set of relatives who felt mistreated. The ending of this story is a good bit better than that of "Greedy Pig."
Brawer probably intended these stories to serve as an introduction to his work, and, if so, he's succeeded. He's a natural story teller with a gift for language who makes his book a delightful page turner. I can't say I learned all that much about his main character David Nance, but I did get a good introduction to Brawer's style. "The Greedy Pig" definitely brings home the bacon.
Both stories were worth reading. I liked the mystery in The Greedy Pig. Unfortunately too true in the way some families act. Mr. Brawer nailed it there in both stories. They both had interesting plots and were good, short reads. I would recommend this book.