There’s something irresistible and so attractive about starting a novel with a murder: for me, I can’t bear the thought of not knowing who did it. And so it was with Charles Cutter’s debut novel THE PINK PONY (from independent publisher Arbutus Press), I blazed through this excellent debut in a single sitting. Set in Northern Michigan, mostly in the environs of the Grand Hotel and a bar called The Pink Pony, the novels opens up with a drunken night of revelry at the conclusion of the infamous Port Huron to Mackinac Island race. The booze is flowing, the women are throwing their bras over the bar, and, in due time, someone is killed.
Charles Cutter is a licensed attorney in Michigan and it is his knowledge of the U.P. and Mackinac Island that elevate this work from potboiler thriller to a work of totally engrossing literature. I, for one, have never been to this part of the country, but throughout the pages of THE PINK PONY we’re welcomed into this specific vacationland like a personal guest. Burr Lafayette is our reluctant hero, a lawyer who would rather be drinking his dirty Martinis while prepping his second (or third) beef tenderloin of the weekend. His loyal canine companion, Zeke, is a worthy sidekick who accompanies him basically everywhere throughout the book, so that I started wondering what’s taken me so long to get a dog.
Burr accepts the case, in part because he needs the money, but also because his own curiosity, like the reader’s, gets the better of him. And as he delves into the night of drunken chaos that led to Jimmy Lyons’ murder. At times, we suspect Jimmy’s wife, Jane, because of course there’s money involved; at other times, we wonder if the defendant, an effete manufacturing magnate named Murdoch, had been sleeping with Jane, or maybe Murdoch’s wife was sleeping with the victim. It’s all the usual, wonderful sort of bedroom mischief that may or may not have led to the murder, and all the while Burr and his dog Zeke while away the afternoons with Kim Crawford wine and evening views of the sunset over the beautiful Great Lakes.
Reading this book made me want to live in Michigan and be involved in interesting, sordid affairs. I even checked out a few Zillow options on the western side of the straights. According to the jacket copy, Charles Cutter is working on a second mystery featuring Burr and Zeke, and, if the next installation is anything like the first, I’ll be planning ahead to block off a full Friday night, Martini in hand, to read it in one fail swoop. I should also mention that this book made me laugh out loud several times. Burr is a sarcastic son of a bitch whose interior monologue keeps everything from getting too serious.
Highly recommended for fans of murder mysteries, books about people who drink too much and get into trouble, books about sexual innuendo, and, of course, books about North Michigan. Available here, in Kindle and Paperback. Happy reading!
Feature Photo by JoeyBLS Photography