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Stein, Stung [Hardcover]

Hal Ackerman

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Book Description

March 17 2012 Harry Stein Soft-Boiled Murder Mystery

Last time it was stolen weed and knockoff designer shampoo. This time it is the seemingly trivial occurrence of a few pilfered honeybee colonies that propel former hippie and merry prankster Harry Stein into the multitrillion-dollar world of the honeybee industry. In the presence of six trillion bees to pollinate millions of acres of almond trees, Stein, who is deathly allergic to bee stings, discovers the natural catastrophe of colony collapse, and a corrupt grab by organized AGROBIZ for all of the available water in Southern California.

In his absence, Harry's daughter Angie and his woman friend Lila's very attractive seventeen-year-old stepson find an elephant tusk that has been carried in to Lila's pool on an underground seepage from the nearby La Brea Tar Pits. When the rest of the skeleton emerges, it turns out not to be the prehistoric mammoth they'd hoped it would be, but a human being who just might have been murdered in the 1920s. The perpetrator of the eighty-year-old murder is still alive and the most powerful man in Los Angeles and will do anything necessary to keep the secret hidden.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tyrus Books (March 17 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440533075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440533075
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g

Product Description

Review

"Sly humor abounds in Ackerman's second mystery, featuring aging L.A. hippie Harry Stein." --Publishers Weekly

"When we last saw L.A. private eye Harry Stein...he was tracking down stolen medical marijuana...in Stein, Stoned. Now he's chasing after...bees. Think of Harry as a nicer but equally harried and quick-witted version of Larry David, and you'll begin to get an idea of how just how wacky this comic crime series really is." --Booklist, February 2012

About the Author

Hal Ackerman has been on the faculty of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television for the past twenty-four years and is currently co-chair of the screenwriting program.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Stein's second outing is a hoot Feb. 27 2012
By audrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is Hal Ackerman's second novel about Harry Stein, a 50-ish hippie who now lives with his girlfriend in Beverly Hills and has joint custody of his 16-year old daughter.

There are two main threads to the plot: Harry is coerced into investigating the theft of a beekeeper's hives -- an odd mystery but one that Harry has some success with, despite being allergic to bee stings and therefore ill at ease. As he works he meets an odd assortment of characters and copes with bullies, criminals, allies and old friends. At the same time, back in Beverly Hills, pool repairs have led to the discovery of elephant bones in the backyard -- or a tusk, anyway, followed by more and more bones which, upon assembly, seem to resemble a human being.

Add to the mix corruption, teenage hormones, passion and trillions of bees, and you have a fun, "soft-boiled" mystery. I enjoyed this book very much. It was fast reading (258 pages -- frankly, I'm tired of 400 page books!) with an occasionally brilliant turn of phrase, and a magnificent extended conclusion -- one of the best I've read in a long time. This was funny, exciting, a blast.

I haven't read the first Harry Stein book but intend to now that I've so thoroughly enjoyed this one. Harry is a great character -- slower maybe, but also wiser than in his youth, mostly for the benefit of his daughter. But the other characters are also wonderful -- Harry's daughter Angie, her potential boyfriend Matthew, Harry's girlfriend Lila, and many others we meet as he travels around trying to solve this mystery -- well-written, interesting characters. I also enjoyed the bits about beekeeping. Altogether an intriguing and fun read with a terrific climax.

Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1940's Humorous Literary Noir March 31 2012
By D_shrink - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is really a story about a story within a story. The protagonist is Harry Stein a 51yo insurance investigator with a mixed up love life. Harry is getting a not so mild paunch but manages to have a fabulous looking very rich girlfriend who somehow seems to overlook Harry's physical appearance for other things, of which we are never quite sure. But as the author latter intones about Harry, "He had come to understand , as some men do when they get older, that the instrument he wields is a baton not a hammer." How succinctly put!

Harry seems to have the best of luck imagining liaisons with beautiful women, as with his boss from the insurance company, Millicent Pope-Lassiter, even though they never come to fruition. One can almost see Harry's licentious and lascivious mind at play in his thoughts about Millie. "She could suck ice cream out of both ends of the cone and catch the drippings out of mid air with a snap of her chameleon tongue."

Later on in the story while tailing some bad guys and he drops his transmission out of his over the hill Toyota Camry, the author said, "Trailing vehicles swerved to avoid the rolling hunk of aluminum that had dropped from his chassis and rolled end-over-end like a wildebeest giving birth on the run."

The author uses a minimum of four letter words but lets your mind form the descriptive thoughts, which makes it seem funnier to me. The whole story is pretty much told tongue in cheek with references back to the Great Gatsby and even Veronica Lake for those of an age to know who that femme fatale was. Think of Sam Spade mixed with Damon Runyon characters.

Harry has all the problems of husband with an attractive yet bulimic ex-wife, an over-sexed vivacious girlfriend, and a 16yo daughter, Angie, who outwardly hates him, while inwardly loving him and trying to protect him in her own adolescent way. Angie tries to convince Harry that her boyfriend Matthew is gay, so he won't worry what they are up to. You'll need a score card to keep up with all the twists and plot changes. The story is full of murders, crooked cops and politicians, greed, lust, betrayal, indiscretion, and plenty more all rolled up into a mildly humorous tale that kept my interest to the end.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STEIN STUNG is seriously silly March 27 2012
By Kathryn E. Etier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
STEIN STUNG (A Harry Stein Soft-Boiled Murder Mystery) is a fun outing filled with suspense, humor, irony, metaphors, and bees. It reveals aspects of bee-keeping-as-big-business with which many people are unfamiliar, such as the transport of bees across country for the purpose of pollinating crops and the phenomenon of "colony collapse" (for more on these topics, see the documentary "Colony").

Set in sunny Beverly Hills, STEIN STUNG is a collection of hilarious vignettes about elephant tusks, familial relationships, growing up, love, and--of course--murder, woven into an 80-year-old mystery. Its unlikely hero, Harry Stein, is a former hippie who is enjoying the benefits of the good life, living with a woman who adores him in her lavish home. Harry still clings to his hippie ideology and seems to have passed much of it on to his teenage daughter--much to her horror.

Author Hal Ackerman has a talent for inventing colorful, unique characters and inserting them into hilarious situations and embarrassing circumstances. There is enough deceit, violence, suspicion, and duplicity in STEIN STUNG to qualify it as "humor noir." Ackerman's use (and sometimes, abuse) of wordplay adds immensely to the enjoyment of the story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Left Coast version of Carl Hiaasen wackiness March 5 2012
By Vermeer fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Sometimes it's better to illustrate a point with comedy and irony than shove it down someone's throat with self righteous zeal. Carl Hiaasen has mastered this in south Florida with his morality plays of Everglades despoiling, beachfront real estate grabs and the narco trade populated by more over-the-top archetypes than you can shake a stick with. Harry Stein's creator, Hal Ackerman, takes up that baton for the West Coast.

We meet Harry Stein, aging hippie and former political gadabout, as he's enjoying the good life at his current girlfriend Lila's Beverly Hills pool. Harry occasionally does some PI work for reinsurance firm Lassiter & Frank and when he gets handed what initially looks like a stolen property case just up the coast, he's game for some quick cash to pay his bills. Harry does have a small problem however-he's freaked out by bees and the stolen property is four hives used in pollinating the large almond crop in the area.

In a secondary plot, bones start surfacing in Lila's swimming pool which is connected to the oil pool that feeds into the La Brea tar pits. Angie, Stein's teenage daughter, and Matt, Lila's college age stepson, try to literally put the pieces together and dig back through decades of California history to get details on what eventually pops out of the muck. These two plot lines eventually intersect in an odd manner and you just have to enjoy the ride.

Along the way you learn more about bees and colony collapse than you might have thought possible, endure some bad puns and marvel at the high school dweeb who made it better than just good. An entertaining read and one that made me want to add Ackerman's earlier Stein novel to my to-be-purchased list.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research, but some short-comings Feb. 28 2012
By Coolfire - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Good in depth research into the bee industry, its terminology, practices, economics, and dependencies. Also demonstrated is knowledge of the almond growing business and its relationship to the bee industry.

The book has two parallel plots. One led by our main character, Stein, and the other by his daughter and her friend. Stein investigations begin centered on happenings within the world of bee keeping and evolve to almonds, unearthing evidence of a great deal of corruption involving bundled derivatives, renting empty bee hives, insurance scams, stolen property, murder, and finally the improper control of water.

The daughter's escapades start with finding objects floating up from an extension of the La Brea Tar Pits in a back yard to an old and previously unknown murder. The daughter's charm is difficult to detect. On the other hand her short comings are too obvious and frequent, such as arrogant, selfish, spoiled, and thoughtless to the degree of not being amusing and distracting from the story lines.

These two independent plots are brought together neatly, if improbably, near the end, as one might find in a movie, but hardly in life.

In fact, the multiple aspects of the end are more fit to a pre-teen story than anything which would relate to reality, with one exception: the author in the epilogue recognizes the effect of the control which power and the media have on insuring that what is wrong will not be fixed.

I found the research excellent, but was not sufficiently taken with any of the characters or their actions and found the pre-epilogue endings too unrealistic, too much like a movie for children.

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