RogerBW's Blog

Flashpoint, Linda Barnes 23 September 2022

1999 mystery, eighth in the Carlotta Carlyle series (neo-noir private investigation). One of Carlotta's occasional volleyball partners asks her to help out with some security advice, but the old woman blows hot and cold, and soon turns up dead.

I've felt that the last few books in this series were treading water, but this one's a return to form. For a lot of the time there isn't a client, exactly, but Carlotta follows the fictional PI's code anyway: once you've got involved in something you never let it go. Then there's Nazi-looted artwork, and the property owner who was keen for his last rent-controlled tenant to move out or die so that he could make a fortune from redevelopment, and the newspaper reporter who doesn't really care what's happening as long as it gets him attention… so who tried to burn down Carlotta's house with her in it?

And we get more of what I've been wanting for a while, Carlotta's "little sister" Paolina; Carlotta can't simply haul her out of her grotty life, but at the same time she tries to keep a look out for her, and sometimes that's not easy. Mooney, her police contact and friend, is not just a dispenser of inside information here, he's directly involved, which means that it's not only a question of whether he'll share things he shouldn't, it's a question of how his personality will interact with the competing demands placed on him.

I think that may be what raises this book in my estimation. This isn't just about Carlotta, Heroic PI, and her team of NPC helpers; it's Carlotta and Roz and Mooney and Paolina and the newcomers in this book; and the things they each, separately, want, not all of which they're going to get. It's about being a grown-up, at least a little bit, and working out just what that might mean. It's mildly spoiled by a deus-ex-machina solution to one tricky situation, but even so, I enjoyed this more than any of the books since Snapshot.

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Previous in series: Cold Case | Series: Carlotta Carlyle | Next in series: The Big Dig

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