These Linda Barnes novels have proven to be pretty reliable over the years. Sure, they adhere to a formula: the tall, brassy private eye, her coterie of odd friends and lovers and enablers, her Little Sister Paolina, her low-grade friction with the Boston cops. In the last couple of books, Barnes has made plots involving some of these minor characters, and this time Carlotta’s on-again, off-again romance with mobster Sam Gianelli provides the puzzle.
Sure, there’s a dead body, and everything ties up neatly in the end, so that fresh-face Jessica Franklin who wants her fiancé tailed for the evening finally connects with a mob-related showdown. Barnes does a good job of balancing the mystery with the character-development stuff. I could only wish she’d spun out the sexual tension with Boston cop Mooney a little longer. But maybe she felt the pair had been sparring with each other long enough. I really was worried Mooney would get killed in the shootout at the end, but I guess Barnes thought Carlotta had been through enough for one book. It’s always interesting to figure out what a writer perceives the covenant with the reader to be. Denise Mina is obviously pushing at some of the conventional boundaries but sometimes we do want a more reassuring world-view and I was relieved that Barnes provided it.