Robert K. Tanenbaum
Pocket, 2003 (2002)
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Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
t is notorious that I am a rabid fan of the Karp/Ciampi novels, unique among mystery series, (to my knowledge but correct me if I'm wrong,) in that the characters grow older and the family grows larger, (and in my humble opinion more and more interesting,) in apparently exact synchronism with the passing of years in the real world.
utch Karp is older and and wiser and wearier of struggling to keep the scales of justice even in the City of New York. His wife Marlene Ciampi is older but not much wiser, still a firebrand waiting for the right conflagration. Their languages-genius daughter Lucy is now eighteen and ripe to relinquish a Catholic nunnery for a handsome boy who makes the right moves. The twins, Zik and Zak have developed distinct characters, and at ten years old grown up enough to have a significant impact on the story. Marlene, with the best of good intentions, has started up a business training mastiffs as guard dogs, in an old farmhouse on Long Island's north shore. She has become friendly with Rose Wickham-Heeny who inherited the house next door. Rose usually lives with her husband, a dragline operator for an open-cast coal mine and charismatic union agitator, in one of the hillbilly haunts of West Virginia.
he two families meet, not altogether happily, before the Heenys return to McCullensburg, though the younger son Daniel (studying at MIT) and Lucy become good friends. Then Marlene learns that Rose, her husband, and young daughter Lizzie have been murdered in their beds, and reluctantly agrees to go to McCullensburg. There the police have arrested a most unlikely suspect, to avoid having to investigate further and perhaps unearth difficult facts. To add to the confusion, Butch is conscripted by the Governor of West Virginia to try to resolve what has become a legal and political hot potato. Before the dust settles Marlene is attacked by hill-billy thugs; one of the twins, Zik (otherwise Giancarlo), is severely injured and in a coma; Lucy has a crisis of faith and is only reclaimed to the Church by a vision of St. Theresa of Avila; and Marlene goes berserk and breaks the law into small jagged fragments.
his book, I believe, marks a turning point in the series. Marlene has gone beyond the law before, but this time so violently that it is difficult to imagine an unscathed reunion with Butch. Giancarlo has awakened from his coma but is blind. And Lucy has not only fallen into love (and lust) but has been visited by a Saint of the Catholic Church. Nothing can be the same again. Of course, this means that there must be another volume in the series very soon. Right, Mr. Tanenbaum?
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