Trouble in Rooster Paradise
Recuperating from an injury and prompted by an eager young nurse, old-timer Gunnar Nilson looks back at one of his big cases as a private eye in 1950. At that time memories of World War II were still fresh, and Seattle was a cultural backwater. The Ballard neighborhood where he hung out his shingle teemed with working-class folk of Scandinavian descent. Gals with hourglass figures and gimlet eyes enticed men in gray flannel suits with cigarettes dangling from their lips. The case he recounts involves the murder of one of these beauties. Gunnar’s business card is in her pocket, but she’s no client. She’s just a gal he met at the movies; he gave her a ride home and helped her lose the creep who was tailing her. It’s none of Gunnar’s business who killed her, not until he discovers she dated the godson of a wealthy client, a man who’s willing to pay big bucks for Gunnar to nose around. Nose around he does, in the perfumed rooms of Fasciné Expressions, a “rooster paradise” that employed the murdered girl and is frequented by the godson. Schooled to be class acts by a former showgirl, these fine-feathered hens know how to inspire a man to spend big on gifts for his lady. Gunnar believes the victim was killed by one of her customers, but the heady fragrance of perfumed female can make it awfully tough for a guy to think clearly, especially when the killer is also breathing down his neck.
“Emory’s first novel vividly evokes the ambiance of classic American hard-boiled crime writing.”— Publishers Weekly
“Seattle-area writer T.W. Emory’s debut, ‘Trouble in RoosterParadise’ (Coffeetown, 256 pp., $14.95 paperback original), is an affectionate nod to noir fiction and its tough guys and dolls. Back in the 1950s, Seattle was a small, distinctly non-cosmopolitan town. Private eye Gunnar Nilson walks the mean streets of Ballard, a blue-collar neighborhood of mostly Scandinavian families. Soon after Nilson’s chance encounter with a knockout who works in a swanky jewelry store, she’s murdered — and his business card is in her pocket. Good, vivid stuff. And who can resist a book with a cover featuring a fedora-wearing private eye, a shapely dame … and the Smith Tower?”—Adam Woog, The SeattleTimes.
“Emory skillfully evokes this era of class distinctions and gender inequity. The murderer’s motive is inspired by both of these inequalities. The tale is peppered with recognizable 1950s characters—the world-weary waitress, the damaged World War II veteran, the thwarted career woman.... I was happy to be plunged into Nilson’s tale in the 1950s.”—Historical Novel Society
"Gunnar Nilson, Emory's clove-chewing gumshoe with an eye for the ladies is every cliché in the book when it comes to hard-boiled detective stories, but to great extent that's what makes this novel such a pleasure.... The characters in the 1950s sections (which make up the bulk of the book) are well-drawn, quirky, and a lot of fun to get to know. The setting - Seattle in the 50s when it was a working-class backwater - is also evoked well.... Readers will want to follow this detective and his delightful supporting cast of friends."—Meredith Frazier, Reviewing the Evidence
"An unusual plot, a different handling, a charming cast… The story is logical, peopled by a recognizable cast of characters, including the slimy business manager, gruff and snarly detectives, and Gunnar’s boon companion who acts as the foil off whom Gunnar can examine the steps and evidence he gradually collects, and the conclusion is satisfactory… I look for intriguing future developments from this author and his characters.”—Carl Brookins, mystery fiction reviewer and author of the Sean Sean detective series.
In the summer of 1950, private eye Gunnar Nilson reluctantly agrees to accompany Rune Granholm on an errand to collect gambling winnings. When Gunnar arrives at Rune’s Wallingford apartment, he finds the man dead, shot with his own gun. No one much cared for the caddish ne’er-do-well, but Gunnar feels he owes it to Rune’s brother, a good friend and casualty of World War II, to find the killer. When a paying client arrives, Gunnar puts this investigation aside.
Attorney Ethan Calmer wants him to investigate a series of phone calls menacing his fiancée, Mercedes Atwood. Mercedes lives in Broadmoor, a tony neighborhood occupied by Seattle’s moneyed class, many of whom are descended from lumber barons. A poor little rich girl, Mercedes is beautiful but strangely passionless.
Then, like the hula-girl lamp in the apartment of the late and unlamented Rune, Mercedes shows him her moves. Gunnar soon wonders if the two cases might be connected in some way, but how, exactly?
Book 2 in the Gunnar Nilson Mystery series, which began with Trouble in Rooster Paradise.