We all have our little indulgences or secret pleasures,
those things which we turn to for a temporary relief from the stresses of daily
life or as a reward for a battle well fought. For some it is a drink or
cigarette, some expensive chocolates or relaxing massage. For me it is reading
an entertaining mystery book.
The best of these mysteries are the ones that create an
interesting detective who operates within a believable world. The recurring
characters become well known acquaintances, reading a new story is like taking
a vacation to a familiar destination, the end of the story is like tucking in a
favorite stuffed animal at the end of the day.
Anyway, one of my personal favorites among mystery story
authors is Stuart Kaminsky. Kaminsky wrote nearly 100 books, mostly mysteries,
and created four interesting detective characters: Abe Lieberman, Lew Fonesca,
Toby Peters and Porfiry Rostnikov. Of these Rostnikov is my favorite.
Over the years I have read most of Kaminsky’s books and a
few days ago was delighted to find a new Rostnikov novel on the shelf of my
local library. I spent the next several hours catching up the Russian
detective’s life – how he was still having discomfort from his artificial leg,
how his wife’s headaches might be a sign of cancer, how his son and his fiancée
have finally married, how the emotionless Karpov rescued a cat, how Lydia
refuses to wear her hearing aides…. The mystery story itself was not more
important then catching up on Rostnikov’s personal life.
As I turned the final page a sigh of satisfaction escaped. My
eyes glanced to the back inside cover of the book and read Kaminsky’s short
biography … and discovered he had died. I flew to my computer and went to
Wikipedia, my personal authority on all things, only to learn that Stuart
Kaminsky died in 2009 while waiting for a liver transplant.
I was surprised at the sadness I felt, not only when reading
it but yesterday and today as I reflected on it. It was not Kaminsky himself I
was mourning but Rostnikov, Lieberman, Fonesca and Toby Peters. There would be
no more shared adventures with these delightful characters.
I would never learn if Madame Rostnikov cancer returned. I
would never find out if Sasha’s wife forgave his infidelities. Karpov would forever
be left in his sterile apartment without the warmth of companionship. Lew
Fonesca would remain in Florida trying to find more meaning in his life. Toby
Peters would continue living in 1940’s Hollywood.
In other words, with the death of Kaminsky came the death of
his characters too, the story arc of their lives unfinished. If I happened to
discover another of his books on my library shelf, I would read it knowing my
questions would remain unanswered. “What happens next?” is the best question
any author can be asked… and for Kaminsky the answers will be unspoken.