A mystery behind a mystery novel

Murder at the River Ben Retirement Resort by Stan Schatt; © 2017; SelfPub: ISBN 9781548-656195; 235 pages.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO –  The fictional Miriam Lipsky writes detective novels, but when a friend accused of murder asks her to sleuth out who really dunnit, she finds the doing is not as easy as the writing.  As she investigates residents, staff and visitors at the mostly Jewish River Bend Retirement Resort in Arizona, she makes a lot of rookie mistakes that the hero of her novels, Romeo Winston, would never make. But she persists, learning in the process.

The mystery unfolds in orderly fashion, although some of the theories that Lipsky entertains are a bit half-baked.  Rather than tell you anything more about the plot, let me address what for me is the mystery behind the mystery, and that is the premise.  Often, it seems, Lipsky wishes that she had the knowledge, derring-do, and suaveness of her character Romeo Winston.  As she pursues the real case, she repeatedly wonders what Romeo would do in her situation.

Carlsbad resident Schatt has authored more than 40 books, with some of that number being detective novels.  Clearly he knows a lot more about fiction writing than I do.  Yet, I have difficulty getting my mind around the concept that a character can be more brilliant than the author who created him, that a logical process that an author can create on paper is far beyond the capabilities of that same author in real life.

Another mystery within the mystery is the role of the sheriff, who encourages and even guides Lipsky in her investigation while keeping the suspect, who he also thinks may be innocent, languishing in jail.  What the heck were the taxpayers of River Bend paying him to do?  Why wasn’t he out there trying to find the real murderer instead of having an amateur doing all the leg work?

While these questions nagged me, they didn’t preclude my enjoyment of Schatt’s novel, replete as it was with Jewish characters and sub-themes.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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