Review: Cranky old man brings fresh voice to crime

29 May 2012
This book cover image released by Minotaur shows "Don't Ever Get Old," by Daniel Friedman. (AP Photo/Minotaur)

"Don't Ever Get Old" (Minotaur), by Daniel Friedman: At 87, Baruch Schatz, better known as Buck, has a lot to deal with — remembering all his medications, worrying about early stage dementia and finding a place he can light up one of the endless string of Lucky Strike cigarettes without being hassled. No wonder he's reluctant to deal with an enemy from World War II, a fortune in Nazi gold and the gory deaths that surround it.

It's been 30 years since Buck retired from his job as a homicide detective with the Memphis police, and he spends most of his time watching his TV shows, mainly the Sunday news shows and Fox News. All that changes when he pays a grudging deathbed visit to a comrade from World War II who confesses to letting the notorious Nazi who ran the prisoner-of-war camp they were in escape with enough gold to weigh down the trunk of the car he was in.

As bad guys and people who feel they deserve a share of the fortune start popping up, Buck is forced to rely on his grandson, Tequila, a law school student who has his own reasons for wanting to be part of the search, for help.

When the bodies start falling, Tequila comes under suspicion, and Buck has to scramble to save his only heir, the son of his now dead son, something he has never come to terms with.

Back in the day, Buck was the top cop in homicide, solving the hard cases and taking a lot of bad guys out of play with his trusty .347 magnum. Seems that at the D-Day invasion, Buck actually had a word or two with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who advised him that when he lost everything, to make sure to hang onto his gun. Advice he took to heart. Advice that still serves him well in his latest chase.

Buck has also held onto the snide, hard-nosed attitude that served him so well when he was building his legend on the force. His body may be a wreck, but his mind, despite his worry over creeping senility, is still sharp.

It serves him less well in his personal relationships, including with his grandson, who is still hurting from the death of his father.

But as with any age, Buck is still learning. And he's dealing with the inevitable problems of old age, including the many ways death can come calling.

Getting old isn't fun, but reading about Buck coping with it and a slew of dirty deeds — and possibly fatal adversaries — is.

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