Swann's Lake of Despair
by Charles Salzberg
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432829360
Date: 22 October 2014 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jaded Henry Swann, an ex-cable guy, ex-skip-tracer, is enlisted by his friend the disbarred lawyer Goldblatt. Always into schemes, Goldblatt uses Henry as his pet detective and partner, although Swann keeps telling him, he's a finder of things and people and not a detective. Sent on several errands, Swann manages to find trouble and sometimes has to repeat his efforts to earn his pay.
Swann's Lake of Despair is a noir detective story that uses dated 40s/50s slang and style, but incorporates today's technology. This may cause a disconnect for some readers and unsettle others.
Initially, Goldblatt sends Swann to Long Beach, NY, to pay a sum of money for the seventy-year-old diary of a notorious flapper. However, at the pickup point he is attacked and the money stolen. Out five thousand dollars, Goldblatt is not happy.
The next deal, their first case as partners, is to find a missing young woman. Her boyfriend is anxious about her and wants assurances she is all right. Touched by the man's concern, Swann cuts the fee in half much to Goldblatt's displeasure.
Swann has a heart and a sense of integrity and fairness sadly lacking in Goldblatt. He believes in delivering the service for which he is paid. He sets about looking for the missing woman. Then Goldblatt interrupts with another case concerning lost photos by a talented, deceased photographer, noted for his fifties pictures of Marilyn Monroe. A client pays Goldblatt a hefty fee to have Swann search for similar photos by the same photographer.
The novel's cover blurb implies the cases converge and collide in the end, but throughout the novel, Swann moves from case to case on parallel, but separate tracks. He prides himself on finding the things he seeks and succeeds, but doesn't always share his knowledge with Goldblatt or the clients. Several shadowy figures, possible mob associates, are never identified.
Swann's Lake of Despair is the third novel featuring Henry Schwann. The other two are Swann's Last Song, winner of the Shamus Award for Best P.I. First novel, and Swann Dives In. He is also the author of Devil in the Hole.