From 1987 (“Rafferty’s Rules”) until 1990 (“Fatal Sisters”), W. Glenn Duncan Sr. published six books in his highly popular Rafferty series. Now, more than 25 years later W. Glenn Duncan Jr. has picked up where his father left off with “False Gods.” He pits Rafferty against the baddies with some of his old friends and has added some new friends as well.
For those of you who may have missed Rafferty the first time around, let me quote Cliff Fausset: “Duncan truly captured the pure essence of the definitive smart-ass private eye in his character Rafferty. Take part Sam Spade with a little Mike Hammer, mix in some Spenser and you have a truly awesome character.” Or as Kevin Burton Smith said, “At first sniff, it may smell like Spenser with a cowboy hat, but take a good whiff. … Rafferty was actually a blast of fresh air in what was rapidly becoming a glut of sensitive, soul-searching, overly politically-correct cookie cutter PIs.” In other words, Rafferty may quote Latin occasionally, smoke too much and be a cynical SOB, but when the going gets rough you’re glad he’s someone you can trust, and you’re glad he’s on your side.
In “False Gods,” Texas teenager Kimberly Troupe has supposedly run away from home with her boyfriend. Her mother, Kathy-Lee, hires Rafferty to bring her home. Easy job. But Kimberly is not with her boyfriend. When last seen, she was with a charismatic cult leader named Dariell Thof, who has a twisted thirst for young girls. Suddenly a more complicated job. When Rafferty tracks down Kimberly, he finds she is being held by a pack of Jim Jones-like, gun-toting religious zealots who are stockpiling firearms and have a remote compound in the Texas desert. Now throw in one more complication. They are being stalked by an overzealous ATF agent with his own agenda who will stop at nothing to accomplish it. Outnumbered, Rafferty brings his old friends Cowboy and Mimi into the picture to help him supply the necessary violence to get Kimberly out of there.
Despite the fact that more than 25 years have elapsed since Rafferty’s last adventure, Duncan Jr. is able to reintroduce the characters without a throwaway preamble. You get to know the characters via their actions not via a rehashing of their backgrounds and history. Some people may find Rafferty to be a caricature of many PIs in this genre. He’s rough around the edges. He’s also a sole proprietor and usually broke. And while he’s not model handsome, he seems somehow able to capture the attention of striking women who should be way out of his league. One thing that makes the story stand out is Rafferty’s acceptance of a collaborative effort to crime-solving and the author’s apparent disdain of trite, neat endings. I will warn you that parts of this story can be quite gritty.
I never got enough of Rafferty’s sardonic, self-depreciating wit, his instinct for doing what is right, and his penchant for landing feet-first in a pile of dung while solving a case. I probably could have used more of Cowboy and Mimi and maybe a little less of Rafferty’s girlfriend, Hilda. Summary: old-style PI series and an easy enjoyable read.
Reviewed by David Beckwith, author of ‘A Demonic Conspiracy.’