Lisa Scottoline. Lady Killer. UK: Charnwood Large Print, 2008.
Ah - for a needed change of pace, like old-fashioned wise-cracking detectives. Scottoline works, to a degree. Mary Di Nunzio is a lawyer in Benny Rosato's small firm; Mary's clients are largely from her own Italian background in Philadelphia. When Trish, a disliked former schoolmate, comes to her for help and then goes missing, sympathetic Mary is sucked into a puzzling story of abuse and threats. Trish's three "girl" pals (dubbed the Mean Girls by Mary) are the opposite of helpful and in fact become increasingly annoying to this reader. Hey, but it's all part of the great ethnic neighbourhood roots that stick together right or wrong.
Mary ignores the police and hunts alone for the missing or possibly kidnapped woman. She has a secret history dating from high school, hence personal motivation. Or guilt. A dead body turns up ― the 'hood has its undesirables. Mary's job is on the line. As light reading, it flows well and has many fun moments but the Italian schtick is very heavy.
"Thank God you bitches woke me up to tell me what I'm doing wrong." (149)
The dining room was full, too, even though it was usually reserved for Christmas, Easter, or another occasion when something really good had happened to Jesus Christ. (405)
Two-liner: "I don't have a favorite food. Food is my favorite." (222)
Getting to know:
"What did you say?" Anthony leaned over his menu. "You like Latin food?"
"No, forget it."
"I cook very good Cuban. I learned it in South Beach from a Cuban friend."
"I feel inferior, with no Cuban friends. I know people from Jersey, however."
Anthony laughed. "I even went to Havana with him. What a city. Very wild."
"I'm sure. I saw The Godfather."
"I memorized The Godfather. I even read the book"
"That's hardcore." Mary smiled. What's your favourite line?"
"'Leave the gun, take the cannoli.'"
"Good one. Mine's 'Fredo, you broke my heart.'" Mary smiled again. She was buzzed. Anthony was fun. Gay men were always fun. She wished suddenly that all men were gay. (121)
When going to work is a drag:
It was barely dawn but Mary was awake, showered, and dressed to match her mood, in a black dress with black pumps. Her makeup was light because she didn't take the time to do it right; her hair fell unprofessionally to her shoulders because she didn't bother to blow it dry. Her eyes had turned red from falling asleep in her contacts, and her face was puffy from the wine. In short, she'd remain single for another day. (219)
Mother knows best:
She watched, mystified, as her mother rose slowly and touched her father on the arm, saying, "Come, Mariano."
"Wha'?" her father asked, looking up in confusion until he received the Let's-Leave-These-Kids-Alone message her mother was telecommunicating via her magical eyes. Mary tried not to laugh. Her mother had a varied repertoire of eye messages, and the bestsellers were: Don't-Eat-With-Your-Fingers, Leave-That-Piece-For-Your-Father, and I'll-Never-Trust-That-German-Pope. (364-5)
Cate Holahan. The Widower's Wife. USA: Crooked Lane Books, 2016.
Wife goes missing from a cruise ship? A great scenario for describing a life insurance investigator's unrelenting enquiries. Ana is the wife; Tom is the husband; Sophia is their little girl. Agent Ryan Monahan suspects suicide, in which case the insurance company will not pay out. Sophia is the beneficiary. Tom insists it was an accident and a superficial police report agrees with him. I was admiring the cleverness of Holahan juxtaposing Ryan's narrative with Ana's in retrospect, leading up to the incident itself.
My admiration flatlined as new facts are uncovered ... all totally predictable as mysteries go. Is it so easy to pull the wool over Ryan's eyes, a former cop? And Holahan stumbles over credibility issues as she winds it up. Neither Ana nor Tom, almost bankrupt in their affluent lifestyle, are warm or intriguing figures. No surprises here: chalk up a disappointment from a promising beginning.
One-liners: 16 fingertips.
People suffering the loss of an immediate family member sometimes lacked focus, as though their loved one's death trapped them between this life and the next, unable to be present in either. (4)
I understood that for type-A men, losing a job was akin to the death of a loved one. (26)
I pushed off my cap and shook out my hair, trying to look like a swimsuit model, trying to make my husband want me. (27)
"Speak of the devil," Jake muttered. He slunk back as his boss stormed over. She flashed a fake, hospitality smile that belied the venom in her voice. "Is there a problem?"
"Not yet." Ryan faced her. "I need to see a tape of the private bar for the night of August eighteenth."
The woman frowned at her employees. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Ryan tilted his head to the side. Did she really plan to play this game with him? "I think you do. And I don't think a restaurant wants to impede any investigation into a missing person."
The manager's hands hit her hips. She leaned on her back leg and gave him a disdainful look. "Who are you, again?"
"I'm investigating Ana Bacon's disappearance."
"Oh. We're always happy to help the police." Her voice dripped with sarcasm. "May I see your badge?"
The satisfied smile in her eyes told Ryan that she knew he wasn't a real cop. (112)
Ryan took a long sip of tea and tried to shake his guilt. "I don't miss meth-heads damn near shooting my balls off."
A pained look pinched his partner's face. She set down the sandwich. "I should have gone with you. I'm sorry."
"It was the post office."
"Yeah. I'm quicker on the trigger than you, though."
Ryan rubbed his thigh. The talk of that day intensified the constant throb in the muscle.
"You need to factor crazy into your statistical models," she smiled to soften the criticism. "You think people are rational. We're all just balls of emotion, justifying rash decisions." (125)
Stuart M. Kaminsky. The Dead Don't Lie. USA: Wheeler Publishing (large print), 2008.
Wise-crackers I got, this time. Gentle wisecracking. Veteran Chicago cop Abe Lieberman features in many of the author's books, along with his partner Bill Hanrahan. Or Rabbi and Father Murph as they call each other. Wife Bess carefully monitors Abe's carbohydrate intake. The slaying of a prominent doctor in the Turkish community is just the start of a multiple homicide trail for Abe – serious criminals here. Bill is preoccupied with his middle-aged wife giving birth while he is expected to investigate a shooting – involving inept but relentless amateurs.
New characters flood the pages at a rapid clip that never lets up: the doctor's stunning widow; the Turkish informant called the Camel; the Portuguese mugger; Abe's non-maternal daughter; Abe's brother Maish; Bill's sinister father-in-law; Terrill the cook; Clark the janitor; Nathanson the loudmouth; and that's not all. The key players are the manic pastry chef; a pair of naive but soulless boxers; and a desperately nervous messenger in the Chinese underworld. Never a dull moment, pure entertainment. Clearly Kaminsky deserves his legions of fans. One quibble: sorry to say he is an "off of" writer.
Word: puissantly - well I never thought of using it as an adverb; well done!
Abe wished he had a cheese danish or, yes, a doughnut, a good, big, fat cop doughnut. (121)
How do you dress when you may have to shoot a man? (151)
Peanuts were on the forbidden list, but what the hell, thought Paddles, almost everything was and you only died once. (271)
A long delivery:
"She looks fine," Vargas agreed. "You, on the other hand, look like dreck."
"Dreck means shit," said Hanrahan.
"Check the mirror. I've got to go. Another baby has decided to greet the fluorescent glare of a delivery room. Congratulations. Beautiful baby."
Benny smiled and said, "You can call me Dr. Vargas. Go home and get some sleep." (51)
Instantly projecting the future:
A flashlight beam hit their faces.
The cop would bring them in, bring in the men they had mugged to look at them, bring them down, count them out. They might lie their way out with a good lawyer. They had always worn masks. But lawyers cost money. They could always turn to Paddles who might or might not cover them, but the newspapers would put them on page three and the television stations would put them on the six o'clock news, and that would end their careers.
"Let me give you a hand," the man behind the flashlight said. (71)
"I'd like a slice of Terrill's apple pie," said Abe. "What kind of kugel you got today?"
"Raisin, brown sugar," said Maish.
"I'd like some of that too and I'd like to start with an omelet with grilled onions, an order of hash browns, and two onion bagels toasted with a schmear of cream cheese."
"You would like?" said Maish.
"I would. What am I going to get?"
"Egg white omelet with onions. One more cup of coffee, half decaf, and, let's live a little, a slice of Terrill's mashed sweet potato side." (97)
Wanting to kill the messenger:
"He's been found. Dead. Want to know where?"
"No, I want to guess, Nestor. Then you can surprise me with the answer when I get it wrong three or four times."
"You are tired," said Nestor.
"I am tired. I'm irritable. I'm sorry."
He was found on the lawn in front of the apartment building where he lived," said Nestor. "You want to know who found him?"
"No," said Bill. "I prefer complete ignorance." (244)