The Dame is the second of four Alan Grofield novels by Donald Westlake's alter ego, Richard Stark. There are four Grofield novels in all, The Damsel, the Dame, The Blackbird, and Lemons Never Lie. Grofield was a minor character in a couple of Parker novels (specifically the Handle). The Parker series consists of 24 novels about a tough-as-nails thief. Grofield is also a thief, but a different kind of character. Grofield lives in a small midwestern town and his first love is acting. He runs a small community theater with his wife, but makes no money at it, supporting his acting profession with heists, sometimes with Parker. Grofield is humorous and always has some light banter, making him quite a bit different than Parker.
In this book, Grofield starts out for home after the events in "The Damsel," but receives airline tickets and a mysterious client in Puerto Rico. Sending Elly (the damsel in distress) back to his wife with the suitcase full of money (perhaps not his wisest idea as Elly was more than just a messenger), Grofield heads to San Juan.
Once there, Grofield finds himself stuck in the middle of a nasty divorce between a mobster and his randy wife. This trip was quite different from what Grofield bargained for and, despite his best efforts, he can't get out of Dodge.
While there are plenty of fight scenes and car chases, the bulk of the story involves a classical murder whodunit where the murder could only have been committed by one of the dozen or so people staying in the house. Although Grofield is blamed, he plays Inspector Poirot questioning each of a cast of strange characters who were there on the night it happened.
It is a smoothly written story that reads quickly and is an enjoyable read. While this plot may not blow the reader away, something about Westlake's writing makes you keep reading until the end.
This is your weekend in the Poconos murder mystery, but in San Juan and, well, there's also mobsters and tough guys running around.
In this book, Grofield isn't the most professional criminal. In fact, he's held up, taken prisoner, and blackmailed. And he really doesn't even want to be there. No, he wants to click his heels three times and say I want to go home.
What is compelling about this story besides the exotic setting? Perhaps the odd assortment of characters?
The mobster's wife with the twenty five year old body and the voice "somewhat older than that, a little rough, a little too used to late hours and neat whiskey and chainsmoking."
The cryptic lawyer and his middle aged wife "in a dark suit too heavy for the climate, her mouth down-turned in what seemed to be a permanent expression of disapproval."
An African businessman with a sort of maroon pillbox on his head.
A lovely girl of twentysomething with long ash-blonde hair and eyes looking past you "as a doe might look at the first hunter of Autumn." "You couldn't find enough blood in her veins to make a scab."
Her brother with a weak face and a petulant attitude.
Of course, it could have been Mr. Green in the library with the candlestick.