Token Murder

The story: Marian's career has taken an upward turn. She's been promoted to Lieutenant, and she is now working out of Midtown South Precinct under a captain she respects. She's not seen Curt Holland for a couple of months, ever since she decided to stay with the police instead of resigning to join him in his newly-created private detective agency.

The first case to test Marian's ability in her new position is the murder of a retired businessman on a crosstown bus. Although the bus was packed, no one saw a thing -- not even the trained operative who was tailing the victim and who, it turns out, works for Curt Holland. It takes only a couple of meetings with Holland for Marian to realize the fire between them is anything but dead. He's back in her life again.

The circumstances of the killing on the bus practically cry out "hired killer!" While Marian looks for the hit man, her personal life grows a mite complicated. Her friend Kelly Ingram, growing tired of performing in The Apostrophe Thief every night, is being pestered by a too-ardent female fan. And Marian's former partner, Ivan Malecki, is getting married and wants Marian to be part of the wedding.

When the search for the hit man goes nowhere, Marian changes directions and starts investigating the victim. Eventually she uncovers evidence of a murder-for-hire ring in New York that has been operating right under the nose of the police for years. The problem then becomes how to bust up such a ring -- and how to find the man behind it.

The writing: A labor of love. What more can I say?


1. Drood Review of Mystery:
"It's Paul's misfortune to have written Kill Fee and The Fourth Wall, certain to be called classics of the genre; anything else she writes will be compared to them. Fare Play is a nearly perfect example of the police procedural as classical mystery. The investigation never obscures the mystery, as can happen in the procedural, because technical detail never overwhelms the plot and the reader is given a glimpse into the thoughts of the hit man and of the internal workings of a murder-for-hire business, a perspective not shared by Larch. The interplay of the voices is compelling and perfectly in unison, and the solution arrives at an accelerated pace, unexpected and memorable.... Barbara Paul's Fare Play could become another classic of the genre."

2. The Houston Chronicle:
"This is a classic police procedural, giving the reader plenty of opportunity to figure out the case along with the detectives....Paul's books have always been appealing, but until Marian Larch she resisted creating a series. Fare Play has some of the grit and realism of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mysteries but adds Paul's comfortable and light touch."

3. Kate's Mystery Books Newsletter:
"Barbara Paul has an admirably wicked mind when it comes to plotting and prospecting for the evil that lurks in the hearts of men....Put in command of the case, Marian Larch shows she is an imaginative and persistent detective....Paul creates another classic mystery. Let's give her a Jeweled Ebony Cat for her career of presenting us with madly eccentric characters, bizarre plots and always, always, good writing."

4. Booklist:
"[Paul's] solidly constructed police procedurals...ought to find their way into every mystery collection. Paul has a good feel for the way big-city cop shops work and for the emotions, traumas, and frustrations that the men and women in blue experience...This one rates high marks for plot, characters, writing, and overall appeal."

5. Belles Lettres:
"True confessions time -- I wish I'd had the smarts to invent such a perfect nineties heroine as Marian Larch...she gets as much flak from her underlings...as from the various criminals she's nailing, but Lieutenant Larch handles them all like a real pro."


N.Y.: Scribner, 1995, ISBN 0-684-19715-4
London: Piatkus, 1995, ISBN 0-7499-0293-0
Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall, 1995, ISBN 0-7838-1413-5
NY: Worldwide, 1966, ISBN 0-373-26209-4

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Page created June 26, 1995; last updated October 30, 2000.