reviewed by Cy Wyss
Smile Now, Cry Later is the first installment of works about Chuck Restic, a bored HR supervisor with a caustic wit and insight into the vagaries of big business. The series is not about big business per se, however, but rather about Restic’s transition into the world of private investigation. In this story, Restic simply breaks protocol by returning a missing employee’s belongings personally. What ensues entangles Restic in a web of organized crime (the Armenian mob) and big money real estate speculation, gets him involved with a sharp police detective, and has him realize he’s at least as good a negotiator as any police psychologist. He manages to talk himself out of (almost) all the tight spots.
I loved this book from start to finish. Restic’s police detective liason is believable and sympathetic, a woman underdog in a male dominated and chauvinist force. She makes a great foil for Restic’s easygoing, slightly self-effacing style. The prose is impeccably edited and MacDonald’s evocative descriptions bring LA to life. It’s all here — memorable characters, a gripping plot, and a quirky point-of-view character that works. The book at times seems too humorous to be noir, but I would put the wisecracking Restic with the great hard-boileds anyway. Looking forward to more!