Stuart M. Kaminsky Essay - Critical Essays


Stuart M. Kaminsky researched his books in many ways: He did ride-alongs with the police in Chicago, Moscow, and other cities; he got information from his police contacts in Chicago and Russia; and he made wide use of the Internet, magazines, and newspapers. All this research is one reason that so many people admire his knowledge of police procedure.

Although Kaminsky’s first mystery novel was published in 1977, it was set in 1940, within the same time period as that of the mysteries that he enjoyed reading as a youngster. The Toby Peters series, his first and longest, is definitely inspired by his early reading, but he adapted the concept of the Whitman books for adults. One of the strongest points about the Peters novels is the atmosphere of their time period. Were it not for the occasional strange twists in the plot, these books could be prime examples of film noir in manuscript form. Kaminsky’s novels are well plotted and the clues are presented fairly; however, there are still surprises waiting in their resolutions. In addition, the seeds of concerns to come are planted within the first novel of the series in that Toby is preoccupied by thoughts of what it means to be Jewish, although he would deny this preoccupation. The beatings that Toby takes are physically hard on him, but they may do him a great deal of psychological good because he feels that he deserves them. Physical punishment assuages his guilt.

Murder on the Yellow Brick Road

Kaminsky’s second Toby Peters title, Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977), was the one that called attention to his series. He based the novel on The Wizard of Oz (1939), one of the most popular films of all time and one of his favorites. In this novel, Toby must solve the murder of an actor who played a Munchkin on the set, a year after the film was released. Characters range from historical film stars and directors to fictional characters. Kaminsky captures young Judy Garland on paper as perfectly as she was ever captured on film, even down to the “sob” in her voice. His sympathy for his leading characters is obvious in this work.

A Cold Red Sunrise

A Cold Red Sunrise (1988), the fifth novel in the Inspector Porfiry Petrovich...

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