Saturday, March 19, 2011


How does someone with short term memory loss solve a murder?  You couldn't even remember what you had learned half an hour ago.

Well in Mike Befeler's Retirement Homes Are Murder, the protagonist Paul Jacobson has a particular type of short-term memory loss.  He can remember everything that happens any given day, but he loses those memories overnight.

I don't know if this sort of memory loss is common (this book says it is), but it does make it possible for Paul to solve a murder,  especially with the help of his dinner-time tablemates in the retirement home.  They give him clues as to how to retain what he would otherwise forget, and they help him in the areas where he is weak. 

This was a readable book, much like a crazy, unbelievable, but fun TV sitcom.  Parts of the plot seemed coincidental, the characters were enjoyable, and the story whipped along.

Paul finds a body in the retirement home trash bin.  The man just happens to be someone Paul has had contact with before.  In fact, in his pre-retirement-home days Paul stands accused of stealing a part of this man's stamp collection.

Not only that, but there is in Paul's trash (which just happens to be where the police can find it) the murder weapon conveniently wiped clean of fingerprints.

And that's not all.  Paul keeps implicating himself, doing all kinds of things which make it look like he did the murder.  And the local policeman doesn't lock Paul in the hoosegow.  This police detective just comes to talk with Paul again and again. 

You get the drift.  As the story goes along, Paul learns skills which caused me to think, "He's learning things he's going to need to get away from the bad guys in some sort of big scene at the end."  And Wall-ah! that's what happens.

Meanwhile Paul finds a woman friend, and we learn that retirement homes are not entirely asexual. 

But still the story was very quick reading.  I found it to be fun.

One thing about this type of book which I think commentators have gotten wrong.  Some commentators talked about a new form of mystery called "geezer-lit."  They expect it to take off because there are so many baby boomers in the geezer-chute right now.  You know the drill, "geezer-lit" like "chic-lit" which I understand is now out of style.

Well, I don't believe in geezer-lit, at least as a huge new market.  I expect most people don't like to read about what they see as unpleasant things which hit too close to home.

To me, it is like most people don't want to read about mental hospitals or mental illness in entertainment-type novels. The mentally ill are just another group to ignore (though the streets and jails are filled with the mentally ill for lack of any other kind of care).

I live in independent housing in a retirement community.  We have the full range of services--houses, apartments, assisted living, a small area for post-assisted living but pre-nursing home people, and a nursing home.  I watch aging all the time (my own included).

 And I know how some people deny their aging.  (We all are aging, you know.)

I suspect some of the people where I live might be offended by this book because of the way it portrays aging, pokes harmless fun at folks like us.  I didn't react that way, but I might be pretty liberal compared to some of the older folks around here.

So I think geezer-lit is a fiction.  I didn't look up how many of these books sold overall, but I'd bet it wasn't as many as you'd think. 

Still, I found this book humorous in places, and basically a good story.  I've got another of these books on tap to read.

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