Lover Man is about an accidental detective.

Artie Deemer never had any intention of investigating a murder. But when his former lover, Billie Burke, turns up dead, he seems to think there’s no alternative. Billie has entrusted him with a set of photographs that appear to point to a heinous crime. And Artie can’t trust anyone with the photos, even the police detectives who show up at his door. This is the setup in the first of Dallas Murphy’s three mysteries featuring the accidental detective.

Welcome to the often-comical world of Artie Deemer. Artie, it seems, lacks ambition. He lives off the royalties earned by his dog, Jellyroll, a television and film star who “is the exclusive spokesdog for R-r-ruff Dog Food, his happy face printed on millions of boxes distributed nationwide.” And Jellyroll isn’t even his dog, not really. Billie rescued him from a pound but insisted on leaving him behind when she moved out to go her own way months ago. All she asks is that Artie send her every month a check for exactly $2,158.68. Which Artie is delighted to do, since he’s still very much in love with the beautiful Billie. And Jellyroll brings in more than that every week.

Lover Man (Artie Deemer #1) by Dallas Murphy (1987) 301 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)

OK, so a lot of confusion and a few laughs later, Artie’s investigation uncovers mystery within mystery. It’s all tied to those photos Billie took. (Yes, Billie is a photographer.) Eventually, though, we find out what Billie’s real name is, who are all the people in those photos, why those checks need to be for exactly $2,158.68, how several former World War II aces are connected to everything else, and, of course, who murdered Billie, and why. All the explanations are a long time coming, but it’s fun to get there. And now the accidental detective has got not just one but several solved mysteries under his belt.

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