RogerBW's Blog

The Snake Tattoo, Linda Barnes 17 December 2019

1989 mystery, second in the Carlotta Carlyle series (neo-noir private investigation). Carlotta's old friend on the force Mooney has been suspended after he beat up a man who attacked him; he says the guy had a knife, nobody's found one, but there's one witness who hasn't come forward. While Carlotta looks for the prostitute with the snake tattoo, a rich teenager who's been roughed up is looking for his missing girlfriend in a part of town that neither of them should be visiting…

There's an investigation into corrupt cops going on in the background, and of course that's going to come into the story too. And if the reason for the girlfriend's odd behaviour is perhaps a bit too obvious, well, such things weren't talked about as much in 1989.

But mostly this is solid procedural stuff, looking for people and tracing chains of clues, with some action (more shocking for being unexpected and not obviously attributable to a particular set of villains) and some comic relief (mostly in the form of Carlotta's bathroom being reconstructed by incompetent but cheap plumbers). And, on a side note, some really well-drawn people, particularly a drama teacher who shows up in the investigation and the missing girlfriend herself.

I like Carlotta's voice, and attitude (world-weary but still determined to do things right); the requisite feeling of being neither tarnished nor afraid comes over well, the clean detective in a grubby world, which makes of an effective updating of the noir atmosphere into a different era, where corruption has to be a little more subtle but is still widespread.

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Previous in series: A Trouble of Fools | Series: Carlotta Carlyle

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