Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens, and the SM Police Dept.: Jones of the Bay Review by Sabine Ganezer of a book by Peter Borresen
May 26, 2022
Concentrating on the ridiculous foibles of the rich and famous on the streets where they earn their political-correctness tickets, this book tastes like a cool drink of cage-free, paleo-friendly water.
If you're looking for a locally-sourced, light and humorous summer (or anytime) read, Peter Borresen's Jones of the Bay might just hit the spot. This episodic detective novel blends comedy, Santa Monica satire, and murder mysteries that increase in intensity leading up to a final nail-biter and a well-earned triumph for the book's hilariously relatable protagonist, the aging wannabe police detective Gwyn Jones. But be warned! This book is not for those who wish to retain the utmost respect for – and trust of – the irreproachable culture and well-run law enforcement system of our fair city. If, however, you're looking for an author with whom to commiserate (asynchronously) on the ridiculous foibles of the rich and famous and of the streets where they earn their political-correctness tickets, this book will taste like a cool drink of cage-free, paleo-friendly water.
The short (228-page) book is divided into six lighthearted yet page-turning segments: mysteries that the oldest unpromoted police officer on the force sticks his nose in and solves, whether his superiors want him to or not. (And... they don't.) The characters are sometimes caricature-like, particularly the murder perps, who seem to confess surprisingly easily. But then, most of them aren't exactly geniuses, nor brooding labyrinths of higher thought.
So overall, I'd say it works. That's not to say that the mysteries are always predictable: some of them take multiple roller-coaster twists.The book's general flavor both echoes and parodies more "serious" mystery franchises such as the indubitable Sherlock Holmes saga. Meanwhile, Jones' first-person narration attacks some of the most frustrating and hypocritical aspects of Santa Monica culture like a vulture who is also a seasoned and effortless comedian. The book's main asset, in my opinion, is the bold way Borresen cuts through elephants in the room in high places... and the author couldn't have done it without the fumbling yet strangely keen protagonist, Jones.
Jones is basically your cringey dad, if your dad were actually funny on occasion and also solved murder mysteries. He mentally caricaturizes his entourage, for instance secretly referring to his wife as "the All-Seeing Eye." His habits of quoting Dickens in public and referring to himself in the third person come off as quirky and whimsical. He is charmingly clueless about his own failures – his attempts to parent his adult son in "Jones and the Happy Family" will have you in stitches.
And while he most certainly isn't one of the cool kids, he is just hep enough to the ways of the trendy people to make uproarious commentary on them, such as he does in the yoga studio of a hair-trigger Zen-master in "Jones and the Man of Peace." Finally, after years of haranguing and threats from his coworkers, and with his career and marriage on the line, Jones "Looks Back" to his early days on the force and ends up cracking a cold case wide open. Will he at long last receive the respect and promotion he deserves? Or will he lose everything to scandal and injustice? It will take a master detective to find out. Just kidding. Just read the book. Pretty much anyone, regardless of detecting skills, will get something out of it.