Monday, 6 October 2014

The Man in the Moon by James Reasoner, 1980

"Are you sure you're not the man in the moon?" Cindy asked.

© www.amazon.com
Children often look elsewhere for familial warmth when their own mom and dad start behaving like monsters. Jackie and his kid sister Cindy, abused by their warring parents, briefly find a father figure in Markham, a private detective from Southern California, who "rescues" them on a deserted state highway in Arizona one night.

The kids had escaped from their father, John Wheeler, who had whisked them away from their mother, Elaine, who has custody. They live in a trailer in Dunes.

Markham takes the children back to their mother in the trailer park where he meets Sheriff Cartwright. Before leaving, the detective gives the kids milk and puts them to bed, exchanges pleasantries with their mother, and a word with the county sheriff.

However, instead of heading back to LA, Markham decides to stay back and investigate. Something about the kids troubles him. Jackie has bruises on his arms, a burn mark on the back of his hand, and a black eye. He doesn't see any marks on Cindy. But he knows she is as traumatised as her brother, just under ten and rebellious. 

© www.philsp.com
While Markham has dealt with conmen and blackmailers, and even unfaithful spouses, he has never handled battered kids. His investigation eventually leads him to a sordid trail littered with forgery, burglary, blackmail, adultery, hate, and murder, involving the kids' father John Wheeler and his father-in-law, Ralph Barrett, a powerful businessman who wants to deal with John on his terms.

If nothing prepared Markham for this case, nothing quite prepared me for the end.

In The Man in the Moon, veteran author James Reasoner handles the subject of abused kids with adroitness and sensitivity. While there is no graphic description, the 10,000-word novella does not lack in suspense and intensity. The story moves at a pace that is both leisurely and feverish. Reasoner doesn't waste his words as evident from the clear plot points and a simple and engaging style. He puts you at ease in spite of the gravity of his story.

What I liked most about The Man in the Moon is Markham staying back because he thinks he has a personal stake in the children's welfare. PIs are often like that when it comes to women and kids who are vulnerable and at the receiving end.

The novella first appeared in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine of April 1980 and is one of many stories about Markham that I hope to read. I don't know if the private eye has a first, or second, name. It was reprinted in 2013. I acquired my Kindle edition from Amazon.

Recommended.

14 comments:

  1. I don't have this one yet but I'm sure I'll be picking it up soon.

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    1. Charles, I liked the story and Markham is a likeable character. I'll be reading some of the other stories in the series.

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  2. I'll see if I can get a print version - sounds great - thanks Prashant.

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    1. Sergio, since the story is about thirty-odd pages, I'm not sure there is a print version. I'd be interested in reading a collection of Markham stories.

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  3. Blast - I really like the sound of this! On to the list it goes.

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    1. Great, Col! I'd like to know your thoughts on it. The first blog I read in all seriousness was Mr. Reasoner's blog, Rough Edges, and that's how I entered the world of blogging. He is, as you know, one of the most prolific writers of our time.

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  4. Reasoner has been prolific for sure, and some of the credit for that must go to his wife and often unacknowledged co-writer, Livia Washburn. My favorite Reasoner novel is the crime fiction thriller DUST DEVILS.

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    1. Ron, I believe the Reasoners have co-authored a few books while Livia J. Washburn has written many of her own. I have read much about DUST DEVILS and will put it on my list.

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    1. Patti, it's a nice little story with just the right amount of suspense.

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  6. You've been reading some really interesting stuff lately!

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    1. Kelly, thank you. I like to read a variety of stories and novels, both old and contemporary. The internet has made access so much easy.

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  7. I appreciate the kind words. There are two more Markham short stories that I haven't gotten in an e-book edition yet, but I plan to eventually. Once I've done that, it sounds like a good idea to gather all of them into a print edition. I never gave the character a first name.

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    1. Mr. Reasoner, you are welcome. I enjoyed reading THE MAN IN THE MOON and I look forward to reading the other Markham short stories or as a printed collection of stories. Thanks for clarifying Markham's name.

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