Dell Shannon, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout. These were my mother's writers along with hundreds of others. She was a book-a-day reader, mostly mysteries and westerns; not for me, who was more into Tolkien or Heinlein or Leiber, but she tempted me early on with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.
So here it is, decades later, and I'm just discovering Lt. Luis Mendoza and the detectives of LAPD Homicide. These are workaday heroes, the guys who show up every day, slog it out, doing the monotonous legwork on a dozen crimes of death, or attempted death, at a time. It's constantly two steps forward and one back, and, often, the other way round. But the work gets done because they put in the time, and though they'd never say it to your face, they care. And when they can, there are brief vignettes into their lives and families: reading Grimm, Aztec and Gaelic myths to their kids, taking pictures of a new baby, trying to adopt, talking the job--or not--with the wife.
It's all mixed together and sucks you in. The thing is it never changes. Today's detectives may have more technology, but it still comes down to workaday heroes doing the legwork, because some things can't be found in the lab or on the computer.
Fans of Law & Order, Cold Case, Without a Trace, and CSI would find themselves well served to discover Luis Mendoza et al.
So what have I learned in all this time? What every daughter or son should come to realize eventually, mother knew best.
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