RogerBW's Blog

Snapshot, Linda Barnes 14 March 2021

1993 mystery, fifth in the Carlotta Carlyle series (neo-noir private investigation). Carlotta's hired by a woman whose daughter died in hospital, to try to get some closure; but soon the key witness dies and the client goes missing.

The practical bits of this work very well, covering Carlotta's social engineering and other practical means of intrusion, as well as her polymorphic approach to interviewing witnesses, suspects, and people who might be either (shifting role and emphasis in mid-interview in response to what the subject wants to hear). The difficulty is really with the driver behind the plot; it feels just slightly off, as if Barnes had read an article about the subject and decided that this was a good thing to put into a story but not got a feel for it the way she clearly has for the bread-and-butter private investigation work. (I'm comparing in particular with Coyote, two books ago, which had some really solid things to say about the people involved in illegal immigration; its topic was rather better integrated with the rest of the book.)

At the same time someone's stolen Carlotta's garbage cans, and this seems to be linked in some way to her adoptive "little sister" Paolina. It's more incident than employment, but I like this ongoing counterpoint to the neatness of a main case that starts at the beginning of the book and finishes at the end.

It's certainly not a perfect book, but it's good of its genre; I'm not recommending this series to everyone I meet, but as an example of a post-cosy investigation that's not gratuitously cruel it does a decent job and I'll certainly read more.

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