Reviewed by John Orr
Keith Raffel is a smart guy who grew up in
Palo Alto, went away to great schools and jobs,
came back to Palo Alto for even better jobs, founded a software company,
then sold it to Siebel
Systems, where he now holds an executive position. He and his wife live
nine houses away
from where he grew up, and have four children. Which begs the question,
How did he
ever find time to write a mystery novel?
And yet he did, and it's a pretty
good one, ''Dot Dead: A Silicon Valley Mystery,'' about a smart guy who grew
up in Palo
Alto, went to great schools and got great jobs, and who still lives in Palo
Alto, where he is
a key part of a tech company.
One day he -- Ian Michaels -- comes home early, gets
bonked on his head, and when he wakes up he finds a woman he'd never met
in his bed. She's
beautiful. Also, she's dead, which leads to tr
ouble with the police, especially when a lot of evidence is discovered
that proves that
she was his maid, she was maybe in love with him, and someone had taken
photographs of her
in his backyard. If not him, who?
He is arrested, of course, but has rich friends and a
good lawyer, so is soon out and about, looking for clues mostly in Palo
Alto but also up
and down the state.
True, the late Gwendolyn Goldberg had been his maid, but provided
through a service, and although he and she often left notes for each
other -- and she had
also left him cookies -- they had never met. Or so he says.
An almost subtle plot element
Raffel throws in is that Michaels tends to be absent-minded about the
details of his home,
which can lead the devious-minded to wondering if maybe Michaels just forgot
he had been having an affair with the beautiful young maid, and maybe
forgot he was a vicious, psychopathic killer.
And then he meets
Gwendolyn's sister, Rowena, and the two of them do fall in love, which
leads to further complications of motive and plot.
This book was a pleasure to read, and
it was especially fun to read about Palo Alto from the perspective of a
smart person who
grew up there, who can still remember it at its best, before its charm began
to erode under
the unrelenting pressure of the big-money MBAs who followed the scent of
and who now tailgate each other at high speed down Oregon Expressway,
toward the next hoped-for big deal.