Book Review: Mildred Pierced: A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky

Title: Mildred Pierced: A Toby Peters Mystery

Author: Stuart Kaminsky

Format: Hardback edition, Carroll and Graf Publishers

Published: 2003


Followers of this column have come across a couple of reviews of Toby Peters mysteries in the past.  Not hard to tell, I’m a fan of Stuart Kaminsky and particularly of this series.  ‘Mildred Pierced’ is the 23rd book in the series, there being 24 in total.  And it is not only a fantastic entry to be so late in the series, but it’s one of the strongest books in the entire run.

‘Mildred Pierced’ opens with the arrest of Sheldon Minck, the Dentist who sublets the closet in his dental office to Toby to use as his own office.  Shelly has been arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, Mildred, a rather unlikable wench that was discovered to have been killed by a crossbow bolt in a park.  Shelly, in the park practicing his crossbow skills, is the likely candidate.  Yes, the dentist was practicing with a crossbow, primarily because he had recently become involved with a group known as Survivors of the Fittest, a group of survivalists who were certain the end of the government was coming and they would be ready for whatever 1944 held for them.  Oh, and then there’s the fact that there was an apparent witness to the murder, a lady who looked a lot like actress Joan Crawford.

‘Mildred Pierced’ has all the earmarks one looks for in a Toby Peters mystery.  Toby is at the top of his game as the rumpled, living at the end of his rope private investigator, equally intelligent and just cynical enough to be affable.  The usual oddball cast of characters, from Toby’s brother Phil to his best friend Guenther to Shelly himself are present as well, all actively involved in the shenanigans, mundane and dangerous alike.  And, as always, Kaminsky’s portrayal of Crawford as well as golden age Hollywood in general is not only dead on, but it is enchanting and engrossing, carrying the reader right into the tale.

There’s another layer, though, to ‘Mildred Pierced’.  Kaminsky tells a tale here that could definitely be written as a modern day detective story.  Though it is knee deep in World War Two, the storyline concerning the Survivors is one that could be on any front page today.  Toby uncovers not only die hard patriots gone to the extreme, but also all levels of corruption on all sides of the law possible, again something else that might find its way into any story set to match today’s calendars.

Kaminsky also undertakes a subplot that is most definitely one of the biggest character development steps he ever takes in the entire series.  The relationship between Toby and his brother has been fairly consistent for the first 22 books, only changing slightly in the titles before this one, due largely to the influence of Phil’s wife, Ruth.  What happens concerning Ruth in this book not only changes the status quo for Toby and all those involved, but it adds a gravity to the book and to the entire series that it greatly benefits from.

‘Mildred Pierced’ rates five out of five pages for sure and certain, definitely proving to be a cornerstone of the Toby Peters series.

This next to last entry by Kaminsky gets six out of six bullets for me, hitting every single target it aims at.




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