Thursday, July 02, 2009

Retirement Homes Are Murder by Mike Befeler

Title: Retirement Homes Are Murder
Author: Mike Befeler
ISBN: 9780373266623, Worldwide Mystery, 2009
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #1 Paul Jacobson mystery
Rating: A-

First Line: Where was I?

How would you like to be stuck in your own personal loop of Groundhog Day? That's exactly what octogenarian Paul Jacobson has to deal with every single day. When he wakes up in the morning, he can't remember a thing from the day before. His children are worried about him and install him in his own apartment in the Kina Nani Retirement Home in Hawaii. His first morning there, he wakes up, doesn't have a clue where he is, but notices that the trash needs to be emptied. Given directions to the trash chute, he discovers that the reason his trash won't go down is because someone's crammed a dead body in there ahead of him. If that's not bad enough, he's the prime suspect because he had a grudge against the victim.

How on earth can an old man with no short-term memory find a killer? He gets by with a little help from his friends, namely Meyer Ohana, who is legally blind:

"We're quite a pair of detectives, with my memory and your eyesight. Between the two of us, we don't even make one lame-ass amateur."

It is Meyer who suggests that Paul doesn't go to bed until he's written down everything that's happened that day. When Paul wakes up in the morning, he can read what he's written and know what's going on...even if he doesn't remember a thing.

Author Mike Befeler coined the term "Geezer Lit" for his series of mysteries featuring Paul Jacobson, and it's a term that lets you know that there is plenty of humor in the books. Not only are Meyer, Paul and their meal partner Henry funny, but so is the cab driver they use during their investigation, and one way they discover to improve Paul's memory. But it's not all fun and games. These are old people with serious problems. Meyer's family doesn't visit much, and Meyer's health is deteriorating. Paul doesn't take his memory loss and life in a retirement home well. There are some days that he stays in his apartment feeling sorry for himself. There is such a clear-eyed portrayal of what it's like to be an old geezer that it's all too easy for Meyer and Paul to make you laugh while they're breaking your heart.

The only thing in the entire book that I didn't like was the motivation of the killer. It just didn't seem to ring true and was a letdown. But the partnership of Paul and Meyer is the real strength of this book. Sometimes you just can't take the fight out of old dogs, and that can be a wonderful thing.


  1. Glad you enjoyed it Cathy.
    Some things I think Mike got just right

  2. I love the term "Geezer Lit!" This book sounds like a lot of fun.

  3. I don't know why this made me think of the movie, Grumpy Old Men but maybe because they were such geezers. Sometimes it is the characters in a mystery that are the highlight like you pointed out. That's okay with me. Characters make the story. This one sounds funny and sad at the same time. Great review! Have a great weekend and a happy 4th!

  4. Sounds promising as the first in a series.

  5. I didn't know about "geezer lit" - sounds great for me! :--)

  6. Kerrie--Without doing any research, I'd have to say that the author has had experience in caring for the elderly. It struck a chord with me because my octogenarian grandfather lived with me for a year.

    Kathy--I really liked it, too. It's one of the few books I've read in recent memory that does an excellent job of "bittersweet".

    Kaye--Happy 4th to you, too!

    Beth--I've got the second on request at PBS. One thing is for sure: I think the length of the series would be limited due to the age of the detective!

    Rhapsody--Some days I get out of bed and definitely feel geezer-ish!

  7. Enjoyed your honesty that the strength of this book was the partnership, Cathy, despite the killer's motivation ruin it for you.

    As for " Geezer lit" I am lol! You are too funny.

  8. Resort--I had to laugh at the term "Geezer Lit" myself. That Mike is one sharp cookie!


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