I don't know if there's any private detective in crime fiction that breaks my heart in the way that Willis Gidney does in Thomas Kaufman's books. Kaufman introduced Gidney in Drink the Tea, the book that won the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel competition. It didn't take long to feel sorry for the man who grew up in D.C.'s bureaucratic social services system, in foster homes and orphanages. But, Kaufman manages to wring heartstrings even more with Steal the Show.
Gidney was working a missing persons case when he found a little black baby screaming in an empty house, empty except for the dead white woman sitting in a chair. And, he did everything he could to adopt the baby he called Sarah, going through all the proper channels, taking adoption classes, only to find his request denied by a social worker. So, he needed as much money as he could get to pay his attorney to appeal his petition. And, it would be so easy to make a little money by breaking into a warehouse that was supposed to house a film pirating center. But, then the man who hired Gidney blackmailed him into getting a job with his father, Chuck Gemelli, head of the Motion Picture Alliance Council, a motion picture lobby. Gemelli and the MPAC was just about to announce an important new step in the the deterrence of movie film piracy.
One little break-in, and it led the same place all good intentions lead, straight to hell for Gidney.
Gidney summed it up to a movie star. "And it's all so simple, really. I'm trying to adopt this little girl I found, and I have to pay a lawyer to help me get around this caseworker who hates me. Meantime, I pissed off some Vietnamese gangbangers who're trying to kill me, and the woman I love walked out on me....Oh, yeah, I'm working on a case that's going nowhere for a client who seems to have disappeared."
Don't get me wrong. Willis realizes he can't do anything right. His humor is his saving grace. And, he truly does love his girlfriend, although he doesn't know how to express it. You'll love Willis Gidney. You'll root for him, and you will appreciate the fact that he realizes his own weaknesses and addresses them with humor.
Willis Gidney, the boy who grew up without parents or a home. He never had a family, and yearned so much for love and his own family. Steal the Show breaks your heart for Gidney, a lonely man who tries so hard, but doesn't know how to express his feelings. Kaufman throws everything but the kitchen sink at poor Willis to see if he'll break, in a complex, fascinating story. And, even when Kaufman allows Willis one good, happy moment, it's overshadowed by a threat from the past. Darn that Thomas Kaufman. Steal the Show isn't enough torment for Willis. There are promises of more in store. You can be sure the next book will once again tear at Willis Gidney, and tear at the reader.