The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

March 8, 2011


Paris, 1924. The "Lost Generation" is busy losing itself in wine, writing, and love affairs. But not everyone is lit up in the City of Lights: the publishers of small, literary magazines are being systematically murdered. When one of the murders occurs a bit too close to home -- right at home in the midst of one of Gertrude Stein's salons -- the imposing Ms. Stein gathers the local mystery writers and charges them with finding the killer. But it's not that easy to find a killer who may actually be legion. And it's all too easy for the hunters to become the hunted.

As with the previous installments in the Hector Lassiter series, author Craig McDonald's fictional characters interact seamlessly with historical figures: Stein, Hemingway, Aleister Crowley, Ford Madox Ford, et al. The author draws them with a breathtaking, at times unflattering, accuracy. Nevertheless it is the fictional character of mystery writer Brinke Devlin who steals the spotlight, or rather, joins Hector Lassiter in it. A writer of similar talent as the late Craig Rice, but with, as McDonald describes her, the visual appeal of actress Louise Brooks (photo, above right)  Brinke is a woman with a mysterious past that comes forth to complicate her romance with Hector. Only 24, Hector has yet to write his first novel, but Brinke is challenging him to expand his writing horizons. Brinke's own style, the reader will find, will become Hector's: Write what you live; live what you write.

As in previous books, the author ties the story to an artistic/philosophical movement. (Who could forget the ultra-creepiness of the surrealists in TOROS & TORSOS?) Here the nihilistic underpinnings of Dadaism are exposed (and perhaps the author is setting the stage for the coming of existentialism?) as post-war rhetoric gone seriously off the rails.

The author seems to enjoy breaking the rules that his own characters lay down. For instance, when Brinke declares, "Killers simply don't kill for the complex or arcane reasons that they do in mystery novels," McDonald promptly proceeds to prove her wrong -- and yet, because this is fiction (and because McDonald can't resist playing - ahem! - head games (nor should he)), he also proves her right.

Hector and Hemingway are not the only familiar faces from previous books. Characters that play larger roles in other books in this series also make cameo appearances here (Donovan Creedy from PRINT THE LEGEND; Quentin Windly from TOROS & TORSOS), helping the reader to visualize Hector's life as a whole, not merely as episodes. In the same way that certain people appear, vanish, then reappear in one's own life, the same way those people sometimes have great, then little impact or influence in our lives, this is true for various characters of Hector's acquaintance.

The essence of young Hector's character is on more prominent display in ONE TRUE SENTENCE than in other books: his charm, his sexuality, his knight errantry, his 'do-it-myself' attitude, and especially his romantic side, his vulnerability to the woman he loves, are all revealed in greater depth. Hector is not quite yet the rugged, intellectual crime-writer readers have come to love but, under Brinke Devlin's influence, the metamorphosis is underway.

When reading a novel by Craig McDonald, the reader can take nothing for granted. Especially not the notion that one book will read much like the next. Where HEAD GAMES was wildly action-oriented, PRINT THE LEGEND was steeped in creeping paranoia. For all it's written in third person, ONE TRUE SENTENCE has almost the feel of a memoir but overlaid with -- or cloaked by -- a traditional mystery of its time period. While the events of TOROS & TORSOS sprawled across decades and continents, ONE TRUE SENTENCE occurs over one week, in one city. If you've read the previous books in this series, you may think you have some idea of what to expect from McDonald. You don't. He's getting more sly (and funny) about his inside jokes. And if you don't think so, I'll leave you with one character's alias: Elrond Huppert.



  1. Oh, I am so looking forward to this one! Great review, Naomi. Thanks for this.

  2. I finished One True Sentence this week. Another winner from Craig McDonald. All 4 of the Lassiter books are excellent.

  3. Pete, because of the Estelle Quartermain character in OTS I went back and re-read Craig's short story, "The Last Interview." Did you get a copy of it? That story just blows me away.

  4. Yes. I read "The Last Interview" right before I started OTS. Very good short story.

  5. I found it even more interesting in light of Estelle's behavior in OTS. I hate it that she's outliving Hector!

  6. Due to Blogger comments not working properly (#FAIL), author Craig McDonald was unable to leave his comment here. He generously made time to email me directly, and I am reposting his comment here:

    "Been debating about making a comment about your last comment there, Naomi, (don't want to risk "spoiling" aspects of the first novel for those who haven't got to it). But I will point out that "The Last Interview" (and related aspects of HEAD GAMES) are set in 1967. In PRINT THE LEGEND, the final pages of that novel begin to cast new light on events as we thought we knew them from the late 1960s, and a certain older, Bel Air driving man's activities at the end of PTL take place in the early 1970s. In other words, HL's check out date is a matter of debate that should be resolved in the eighth and final novel...

    "All that said, thank you so much for the wonderful, careful and knowing treatment you and Corey have given the Lassiter novels here — I learn from and cherish The Drowning Machine takes on the books and bear them in mind as I revise subsequent installments for publication."