It's Bill Smith's turn to take center stage in this sixth entry in S.J. Rozan's memorable Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series of mysteries, and the tough and taciturn private eye really comes into his own. Smith has cloistered himself in his remote cabin in upstate New York, where he escapes from his private devils by fishing, hunting, and practicing Mozart and Bach on his piano, when he is sucked into two local crime cases.
The first involves Tony Antonelli, the brother of a young man whom Smith once helped out of trouble. Tony finds the body of a murdered local hoodlum in the cellar of his roadhouse. His brother Jimmy suspiciously goes missing and becomes the leading suspect. The second case involves a reclusive older woman (who turns out to be a world-famous painter). She asks Bill to track down some of her early works, which had been stolen from her studio. There's also a very nasty sheriff who hates Smith, a moderately tolerant state trooper who grudgingly helps, a corrupt executive of a babyfood company and his sad, dangerous teenage daughter, plus a crew of smalltime crooks who give the lie to the myth of rural safety. Lydia doesn't get called in from the Big Apple until quite late, and when she arrives she attracts stares in the local 7-Eleven "as though she were a black-petalled orchid that had sprung up in the daisy patch. Back in the car, Lydia grinned, said, 'Not many Asians up here, huh?' 'Especially in black leather,'" Bill answers."
The plot might have one or two tangles too many for its own good, but as usual Rozan proves herself to be one of the best descriptive writers in the genre, bringing to indelible life everything from a modern painter's latest work, to a depressed countryside where the last stone quarry is about to close down and grind away a few more dreams.
Other books in this award-winning series: A Bitter Feast, Concourse, Mandarin Plaid, and No Colder Place. --Dick Adler