An old-fashioned mystery set in the Adirondacks

Special to the Enterprise

Timothy James Brearton’s “The Millionaire Rig Veda” begins in Naples, Fla., where retired probation officer Melvin Cooper lives with his 8-year-old daughter, Molly.

But the death of his eccentric and wealthy friend Max Anadalus sends Cooper on a curious road trip that involves a homeless Florida man who inherits $14 million from Andalus, some criminals who might be connected to the cult headed by David Koresh in Waco, Texas, and a vacation home in the Adirondacks.

Brearton’s characters are an odd lot. That’s a compliment. Cooper and his daughter Molly have a comfortable relationship, though it is shadowed by the death of his wife, Molly’s mother. Together they are trying to find a new life in southwest Florida among the retirees much older than the 48-year-old Cooper.

Cooper’s friend Ginny Straith, whose former boyfriend admired David Koresh, is the executor of Max Andalus’s will. Aggressive, vocal, busy, conflicted – Ginny brings energy to Cooper and the story. Together, and with Molly in the back seat, Melvin and Ginny search for Rig Veda, who turns out to be a somewhat charismatic man who dispenses both wisdom and hope to other homeless people. Veda utters Zen-like platitudes to his followers as well as Melvin and Ginny, who inform him that he has inherited a fortune.

The foursome (Molly, too) fly to New York to meet with Max Andalus’s lawyer, who describes the distribution of the estate: $14 million to Rig Veda and the Keene vacation home to Melvin and Ginny.

The lawyer makes the connection between Andalus and Veda a bit clearer, though Veda’s explanation as to why Max gave him $14 million raises as many questions as it answers: “Max Andalus was a Brahmin. He was a holy man, a scholar. The highest of the castes.”

A few hours after giving us that insight, however, Veda is abducted by Ginny’s ex-boyfriend and driven to the home in Keene. Max, of course, follows, confronting the abductors – who are armed – and a woman who claims to be Max’s wife. It is here, via a letter Max wrote just before his death to Cooper, that all of the twists and turns of the story finally become clear.

What is finally clarified is that all of the plot complications have not been what they seemed. Lake Placid author Brearton has confused not only Melvin Cooper, but (delightfully) the reader as well.

“The Millionaire Rig Veda” is a bit of a throwback – one of those old-fashioned mysteries solved quickly when most of the players are in the parlor and all the dots finally connected. Brearton’s characters are individualized, idiosyncratic and well fitted to the roles they play. In addition, the author foreshadows well and provides a bit of local color, especially in the Florida pages.

What would help the book and make it more satisfying is more of what Brearton demonstrates he is skillful at. More character development fuller revelation of Ginny’s motivation, history, and hopes, for example. And more local color: New York and the Adirondacks as well as southwestern Florida.

As it is, “The Millionaire Rig Veda” is a quick, fun read that offers promise of more good writing and good reading in the future.

This review reflects the individual view of the reviewer, not the views of the Adirondack Center for Writing or the Enterprise.