Benjamin Black’s The Lemur is a character-driven mystery full of surprises. John Glass, a once-respected journalist, is hired to write the biography of his father-in-law, “Big Bill” Mulholland. Mulholland played a prominent role in the CIA during the cold war and has since become a successful businessman. Glass does not have the integrity to turn down the biography assignment altogether, but he does feel enough guilt about the obvious conflict of interest to hire researcher Dylan Riley, who Glass refers to as the Lemur, to do a substantial amount of work on the book. After barely starting the research, Dylan calls Glass to tell him that his services will now require more money due to some sensitive information he has uncovered. Riley does not say if this information is about Glass or Glass’s wife’s family, but Glass is worried as he has some things to hide. Before Glass has even begun to figure out how to deal with Riley’s extortion attempt, Riley turns up dead with the police claiming that Glass was the last person he talked to.
The pace slows down a bit from there, but I thought this was a good decision on Black’s part as it allowed him time to develop the main characters. As the plot thickens it becomes clear that any number of characters might have had reason to kill Riley. It also seems possible that the same characters might have had nothing to do with the murder. This was an enjoyable novel from beginning to end that struck a nice balance between plot and character.