Amateur Night

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jane da Silva is a thirty-seven-year-old widow who has been variously a governess, an advertising model, and a lounge singer in Europe. She lives now in Seattle, where she hopes to take advantage of her uncle’s will; he has left his considerable fortune to a Foundation for Righting Wrongs, which is empowered to turn the money over to Jane if she can find and solve a “hopeless case”—that is, a case that all others have given up on.

The present case features a young man of no particular merit who has been convicted and imprisoned for shooting the wife of a neighborhood pharmacy owner. The case seems closed; even the youth’s lawyer and his mother think he did it. The lawyer, Calvin Mason, minimally competent and small-time, tells Jane of the case and she begins to follow a very slim lead. The result is mainly a search for witnesses; when they are found, the case more or less solves itself.

Jane is attractive and quick-witted, notably able to think up believable stories at need. She is completely inexperienced in the detection business and not so competent or brilliant as to be unbelievable. She has common sense and a strong determination, which enable her to keep going when those about her counsel quitting.

The story is set in the Pacific Northwest and Canada; the climax features a tour of Vancouver Island by highway and logging road, where Jane finds unexpected and sometimes suspicious help. The book also features lots of up-to-date, life-style stuff, yuppie products, and gourmet foods.