SWANN’S LAKE OF DESPAIR by Charles Salzberg is a thrill-ride from start to finish.

When rare photos, a scandalous diary, and a beautiful woman all go missing at once, the stage is set for three challenging cases for Henry Swann. It begins with an offer to partner up with his slovenly, unreliable frenemy, Goldblatt. The disbarred lawyer-turned-“facilitator” would provide the leads and muscle, while Swann would do all the fancy footwork. A lost diary by a free-loving Jazz Age flapper is worth enough to someone that Swann takes a beat down on an abandoned boardwalk. Pilfered photos of Marilyn Monroe propel him deep into the past of an alcoholic shutterbug, his wife; and he’s hired to search for a lonely writer’s runaway girlfriend. The cases converge and collide in a finale that lifts the curtain on crucial, deadly facts of life for everyone — including Swann himself. (Synopsis from Amazon)

Henry Swann does a favor for disbarred lawyer and “friend” Goldblatt leading to more cases and an oddly successful partnership with the corpulent Goldblatt.

Here’s a succinct look at those I believe are the main recurring characters:

Swann~ Cynical skiptracer, not quite a P.I. because that would require a license.

Goldblatt~ Disbarred lawyer and diner gourmand.

Klavan~ Rare bookseller who lets Swann use an office in his shop.

Ang(i)e~ Klavan’s assistant who also does occasional research for Swann.

These questions and more will keep those pages flipping to SWANN’S LAKE OF DESPAIR’s tidy conclusion.

There’s no doubt that each of these characters have unplumbed depths and shrouded histories I look forward to discovering, especially and most surprisingly Goldblatt. I haven’t quite figured out if hints of his past escapades are hot air or not.

Have you ever watched Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer series? There’s a hardboiled aura surrounding SWANN’S LAKE OF DESPAIR that brought the series vividly to mind; minus Hammer’s bang bang shoot ‘em up action scenes, car chases, and women. Swann is more cerebral than physical. While certain cases certainly have the potential to go south they’re more human interest. The lack of physical action doesn’t take anything away from Swann or the cases. I haven’t a doubt Swann could be physical if necessary but he’d rather rely on his cerebral, observational, and discernment skills. It didn’t take long to become vested in the outcome of each case.

What would cause Donna to disappear like she did? Is Jack more sinister than his appearance would lead you to believe?
Are there pictures-negatives like the Marilyn Monroe photograph cache lurking in a warehouse or other hidden place waiting to be discovered?

What secrets lurk in a fifty year old murder victim’s last journal? Who is willing to pay thousands to get their hands on it? Could it possibly reveal her murderer who was never caught?

These questions and more will keep those pages flipping to SWANN’S LAKE OF DESPAIR’s tidy conclusion.

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About the Reviewer

Ivy Truitt
Transplanted Southerner and avid reader. My tastes are eclectic. I discovered mysteries first then historicals in the era of Kathleen Woodiwiss & Rosemary Rogers. I was never able to finish Gone With the Wind, Scarlett got on my nerves too bad, but I loved Alaina in Ashes in the Wind. I also manage the guest author blog for Manic Readers. In addition to here you can find me on FB, Twitter, Goodreads, Librarything, & Riffle. Always up for talking about books, just gimme a holler!!