An Old Man’s Game

Andy Weinberger opened Sonoma’s beautiful bookshop, Readers’ Books, in 1991, along with his wife Lilla. I’m always pleased to discover a book by someone I know in a different mode. When I visited Sonoma a couple of weeks ago, I picked up Weinberger’s debut mystery, An Old Man’s Game at his store.

Detecting isn’t an Old Man’s Game unless that old man is Amos.

An Old Man’s Game was published by Prospect Park Books. In February, 2021, the publisher was acquired by Turner Books, so I don’t know what that means for the publishing house.

An Old Man’s Game is a detective novel featuring Amos Parisman, the “old man” of the title. Amos is a retired private detective in Los Angeles, called out of retirement by the board of a local synagogue to investigate the abrupt death of their charismatic and controversial rabbi. With his Latino helper Omar and an older, jaded police detective, Amos tries to investigate, but answers are thin on the ground, and the body count soon mounts. At home, Amos tries to adjust his life to the needs of wife Loretta, who seems to have a form of cognitive decline.

This wasn’t really my kind of mystery, so I found that aspect disappointing. I enjoyed Amos’s descriptions of various Los Angeles neighborhood’s, and his acerbic take on organized religion, even the one he was raised in. The bits of Jewish culture, particularly around food, were great.

While I liked much of Amos’s snarky first-person narration, I found a lot of the book to be uncomfortably dated. He comments that two junior cops learned everything they know from watching Dragnet. The second iteration of Dragnet went off the air in 1970. If the story is set in the 20-teens, as if seems to be, none of them would be old enough to remember it. Amos’s solution is talky and stagy, which is in keeping with the Chandleresque style he is emulating, but it didn’t engage me.

The subplot of the book involving the enigmatic rabbi’s controversial theory about Judaism was amazing though, resonating with Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I loved following Amos through the thicket of the rabbi’s mind as he reads the deceased’s sermons.

Enjoy this book for the travelogue of Los Angeles through nostalgic eyes, bits of snarky banter and the good use of L.A. landmarks and meeting places. And kudos to Andy for realizing not one dream but two–owning a bookstore, and publishing a novel!

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