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Pay or Play Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Friday, November 19, 2021

Pay or Play Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

Author: HowardMichael Gould

Publisher: Severn House

ISBN: 978-1-4483-0588-9

Howard Michael Gould's wryly comic mystery novel, Pay or Play, features former LAPD detective Charlie Waldo and his "on and off" private investigator girlfriend, Lorena Nascimento.

We first meet Charlie in the San Jacinto mountain town of Idyllwild, California, where he resided in self-imposed exile for the past three years after resigning from the LAPD police force.

Charlie is resolved to transform his behavior and conscientiously respect the environment. He is committed to a zero-carbon footprint and vows to own only one hundred items. All of his activities are based on the potential impact they might have on the environment.

His solitary quiet life comes to a standstill when his former girlfriend, Lorena, shows up on his doorstep. She tries to entice him to join her expanding PI business and live with her in Los Angeles.

After giving it some thought and learning about the mountain fire where his cabin is situated, Charlie reluctantly agrees to live and work with Lorena.

Charlie is approached by a dangerous Latino trafficker, Don Q, who insists on engaging his services as a private investigator.

Charlie agrees, provided he is paid two thousand dollars a day, which will be a donation to the World Wildlife Fund.

Don Q explains to Charlie that a few days ago, the police pulled a "John Doe" out from a mini-mall fountain in Sherman Oaks, who supposedly had drowned. He wants to know whatever the police know and what they don't know.

Don Q refuses to inform Charlie why he is interested in this "John Doe." Charlie surmises that perhaps Don Q killed the dude in the fountain and wanted to exploit him to get away with the homicide.

During his preliminary research, Charlie finds out that the corpse discovered in the fountain was that of a homeless man nicknamed "the Professor."

When Waldo tells Lorena that Don Q requested his services, she reminds him he doesn't have a license to carry out PI work.

Waldo confesses he is taking on the job under her charge. Lorena responds by telling him that in exchange, he will have to do something for her.

Lorena reveals that a famous television superstar, Judge Ida, has engaged her services. Charlie is very familiar with Judge Ida and is quite absorbed by her television series.

The Judge is a bold African-American who doesn't hesitate to dish out colorful expletives to those who stand before her on the show. Her sidekick on the production, named the Bailiff Man, is Immanuel Nickerson.

We learn that the Judge and Nickerson were carrying on a steamy affair that ended badly. Nickerson's contract was not extended when the show was reaffirmed.

This led him to sue the Judge for sexual harassment for five million dollars. He claims the reason he kept his job was on condition he sexually satisfied Judge Ida. The lawsuit was filed by powerhouse attorney Fontella Davis.

Fontella and Judge Ida had a personal relationship when they were attending a small, prestigious college forty years earlier.

Their friendship ended on a sour note. Upon further reading, we discover that Fontella and Judge Ida's connection involved the latter's boyfriend, and the suspected death of a college freshman during the week of hazing.

Nickerson's harassment suit was not the only one; there were others. These male claimants engaged Fontella to act on their behalf, stressing that they were likewise harassed going back to Judge Ida's days in private practice.

Judge Ida wanted Lorena and Waldo to do deep-dive background checks on these plaintiffs. "To put them under a microscope and find anything, related or otherwise, that might embarrass or discredit them and force them to withdraw from the suit."

Besides the harassment suits, Judge Ida also receives an anonymous note with the words, "I know."

She passes the note onto Waldo for further scrutiny into a possible extortion. Judge Ida believes that when people learn she will earn one million dollars a day, someone is bound to show up, "to try and jack you." She does not know what this fool may have on her.

Waldo sums up the two cases as "absolute shit, taking turns being worse from one day to the next." He also reflects about his relationship with Lorena. She slowly keeps on wearing him down until everything goes her way: "living together, working together, disposable bags, needless travel, bad news clients."

Both cases provide readers with quite a rollicking good time containing large doses of devilish fun with quite unpredictable story telling. You may ask, can a novel with such goofy characters and plot sustain our interest? Amazingly, yes!

Gould is blessed with a comedic gift and no doubt his writing is much influenced from his many years as television and film writer, playwright, and satirical crime novelist. In these stormy moments, we need all the humor we can get and Pay or Play provides us with just the ideal remedy.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Michael Howard Gould

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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