I was invited to read and review this strange little book by
Net Galley and Simon and Schuster, and I thank them. It’s for sale now.
Fonzie is the eternally cool lone-wolf character in the
television sitcom “Happy Days,” which was aired during the 1970s and early
1980s, back before the internet and the digital era gave us choices. The show
is set in the 1950s, with malt shops, sock hops, and so forth. Richie
Cunningham was the main character, an ordinary small town teen who was
befriended by the Fonz. This book morphs
forward to the 1980s, which places Richie—er, Richard—in middle age. He’s a
Hollywood producer but is called back home by the death of Fonzie.
When I saw this book in my email, I wasn’t sure what to
think. How does anyone write this book? Neither Richie nor the Fonz was
anything more than a stock character during the series itself. Every problem
encountered by any character had to be resolved with humor and warmth within
thirty minutes—more like twenty once advertising is figured in. So my first
assumption was that this must be some sort of dark satire. But that would be
very edgy and risky, and I wasn’t sure Simon would touch something like that.
But, it’s an invitation and a quick read, so let’s have a look.
Satire it isn’t. It’s promoted as noir, and it isn’t that
either. I can go sit in the garage. I
can say I am a car. I can get my children to all say I am a car. I still won’t
be a car, or for that matter a motorcycle. And so I’m telling you right now
that this is, in spite of its quirky title and book cover, a cozy mystery,
period. It is what it is.
Now, that’s not a bad thing. There are a lot of readers that
enjoy a good cozy, and it seems likely that a lot of those readers will fall
into the demographic to which this story appeals, namely the Boomer generation,
the readers that watched Happy Days when they were young and (hopefully) happy.
So here we are, back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Potsie and
Ralph Malph distrust Richard because he has become some sort of Hollywood big
shot. His career is on the rocks, but they don’t know that; all they know is
that he’s come back to the Midwest wearing designer clothes, and when he calls
himself “Richard,” they snicker. But ultimately they all work together to
unsnarl issues of local corruption as well as the mystery about Fonzie, and
Richard realizes he is really still Richie.
So we have corn; we have cheese; and we have cheese corn.
But it’s an accessible story that will provide a pleasant level of distraction
that doesn’t require a tremendous amount of concentration or analysis. If your
gram is undergoing chemo, she can take this into treatment and it will help keep
I recommend this book to those that primarily read cozy
mysteries and are familiar with the series.