Work for a Million by Eve Zaremba

published 1986     chapter 9

Betty Grelick has a small, tasteful office in a remodelled building just off fashionable Bloor Street West. She greeted me pleasantly, obviously having decided to be charming rather than resentful. Definitely an improvement. She was head-to-toe in tailored denim, a casually expensive French designer outfit with embroidered vest and good jewellery. If she was short of money, it wasn’t showing. I was offered a drink and accepted. Betty mixed two powerful Bloody Marys. Then followed an awkward pause. Whatever the purpose of her lunch invitation now that I was there, she had trouble getting the situation organized to her liking. 

‘How long have you and Sonia been friends?’ I asked tactfully. It was a safe opening. Got the ball rolling and allowed her to take the conversation in any direction she chose.

observations: There is a somewhat discreditable reason for this particular crime novel being used: I was updating the list of books-on-the-blog (tabs above) and realized there were no authors beginning with Z. So this one was pulled out of an extensive crime fiction library to fill the gap. (Zamyatin might turn up one day.) It is very reminiscent of a book called Salmon in the Soup – in the blog entry (rude remarks but lovely picture), I said ‘the heroine has seen it all before, and so has the reader’, and that would apply to this one too. The investigator is a female private detective working in Toronto, a lesbian, and she is called in as bodyguard to a beautiful singer who has had threatening calls. (It does sound like a mishmash of many a Virago/Women’s Press 1980s crime effort.) It’s part of a series and is entertaining enough, but routine and unmemorable. Having said that, here’s a complaint that it did not have an expected scene: It seems a shame to have made one of the main characters a popular singer, but NOT to have an exciting climax at a concert full of jeopardy.

One nostalgic note was hit by the House Detective at a hotel, provoking thoughts that this important figure featured a lot in thrillers of the last century, books and films: it seemed a mysterious and glamorous job – what did they do? For those of us in the UK, living dull lives, they were indicative of a whole world out there that we didn’t quite understand, but knew to be exciting and dangerous. Presumably they’re just called Security now.

Links on the blog: Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone (female private eye) books started out in the same era, and stayed there in their own special way.

Margot Kinberg, on her splendid Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog, last year did an excellent piece on 1980s crime fiction.

The picture is of supermodel Gisele Bundchen at a fashion show in Rio.


  1. Moira - Unmemorable or not plot-wise, I do like the description of the clothes. Quite well done. And the 'photo too (but of course, you always choose good 'photos).
    House detectives are interesting characters. Some day I may do a post on that...


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