Toby Peters has rubbed elbows with, and taken a beating for, most of the brightest stars from Hollywood's 1940s heyday. Judy Garland, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin--this disheveled, taco-gulping L.A. private eye has worked for them all. Usually to his regret. In Stuart M. Kaminsky's wacky but charming To Catch a Spy, he adds the terminally suave Cary Grant to his client list.
As 1943 comes to an end, with Allied bombs battering Berlin and Americans celebrating a new pork bonus among their wartime food stamps, Grant hires Peters to make a late-night swap of money for "compromising documents." ("I'm not being blackmailed over some crime or sexual indiscretion," Grant insists. "It's more important than that.") However, the mysterious messenger is shot before he can hand Peters the papers. His dying words: "George Hall." It's only the vaguest of clues, but enough to send Toby and Grant--who's working for British Intelligence Services--on a bungling chase that leads to a second corpse, a cabal of Nazi sympathizers, and a perilous confrontation on a moonlit precipice.
What's most remarkable about this 22nd Peters outing is that it's just as welcome as the first, 1977's Bullet for a Star. Kaminsky, a film historian, employs his knowledge of Tinsel Town's "golden age" to both nostalgic and comic effect. More lighthearted than 2001's A Few Minutes Past Midnight, but still featuring Kaminsky's usually suspect cast of supporting eccentrics--including Irene Plaut, Toby's addled landlady, and dentist-from-hell Shelly Minck--To Catch a Spy is Raymond Chandler by way of the Marx Brothers. --J. Kingston Pierce
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful: Nostalgia, September 26, 2002 Reviewer: bill runyon from Indiana Yes, Nostalgia about sums up the essential element of the Toby Peters mystery series, and this entry continues the tradition. Author Kaminsky is an authority on the golden age of Hollywood, and his Peters series abounds with name-dropping references to every conceiveable food, drink, movie, gossip, auto, appliance, etc. that can be mentioned in a story. If you ever wondered what brands of chewing gum, soft drink, auto, etc. were used by people in the '40s, the author supplies the brand name. And, interestingly, most found are those that no longer exist, so some readers will find their memories touched by old associations long forgotten. Detective Peters himself drives a Crosley automobile, long-disappeared, and you will rarely see such a thing even at old-auto shows. They just weren't saved and haven't been restored; they were too small and too inexpensive. But small and economical, so they are another example of a product ahead of its time. But the nostalgia is a very nice backdrop to a pleasant set of mysteries, and the reader gets a nice intro to the detective's mind-set when introduced to his cat, which is named after Dashiell Hammett. When you think of Hammett, you are on your way to a nice entertainment. This time, Peters gets called by Cary Grant, and they set off on an adventure where they chase and neutralize some Nazi spys, but only after Peters gets his usual quota of blows to the head and punches to the body, as well as a few forays into brambles and brush. All typical for this detective, but we end up sympathizing with him and all his aches and pains. After all, Cary Grant trusts and likes him, so how can we do any less? This story contains a trip down memory lane and a satisfactory mystery. Recommended for all mystery lovers.