I talked, in my review of the first volume, about how Master Keatonis an older series. I knew going in that there would be an air of “that was then” reading it. Yet it surprised me how many of the stories inthis second volume were also looking backwards within their own texts.
For example, the first story involves insurance investigator Keaton helping with the undercover sale of a medal from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The former owner’s widow wants it back as a memento of her departed husband’s career. However, even that story about past relationships has a flavor of the 1980s (when the chapters were created), with a mention of troubles between England and Ireland.
A horror-tinged story about a man whose wives keep dying has a motive rooted in the villain’s childhood, with revenge for a suicide. The horror comes in where the women seem to act like werewolves before their deaths, although that’s just dramatic set dressing. (Unfortunately, those chapters are a bit old-fashioned and biased in their treatment of women and ethnic backgrounds.) An attempted assassination has its roots in the 50th anniversary of young soldiers living through the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
We learn more about Keaton’s motivations in a tale about his mentor and his early days of study. His love of archeology, his dedication to an unpopular theory, and his desire for lifelong learning shine through. As a change of pace, Keaton’s father helps a woman find her lost dog. Another sort-of comic relief story involves Keaton and a friend from college pondering their divorces while chasing around London after ice cream.
Beyond the flashback stories, there’s a puzzle mystery (about how to deliver a document to a far destination in a short period of time) and a thriller in which Keaton goes up against a group of bounty hunters seeking rewards for captured terrorists. The cinematic art works particularly well in building drama in these kinds of stories.
The concepts are often involving, although the endings can be abrupt, perhaps due to the need to wrap up a tale in a serialized chapter (two at most). The overall idea in this volume seems to have wandered away from the historically influenced investigator to a more generic adventurer. I’m reserving judgment on what I think about that until I’ve read more volumes.