The Big Dig
Minotaur, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
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Reviewed by G. Hall
t last, there is a new book by Linda Barnes! It has been several years since the last Carlotta Carlyle mystery, and fans have been eagerly awaiting a new episode. While Kinsey Milhone and Sharon McCone ably represent the West Coast, as V. I Warshawski and Cat Marsala do for the Mid-West, Boston private investigator and some-time taxi driver Carlotta is the main mystery heroine for New England.
n the last decade there has been an explosion in books starring female sleuths, but 6 foot tall, red-haired Carlotta remains one of the most appealing. The continuing set of minor characters in her stories (especially Carlyle's multiply pierced punk tenant and computer expert Roz) provide a colorful background. The title of this book will be familiar to anyone who has been unfortunate enough to drive in the Boston area in recent years, since it describes a massive federal effort (billed as the largest in US history) to improve the road and tunnel systems. Of course, in the meantime traffic is hopelessly snarled.
arlotta finds herself in the midst of the project in this novel. Following up on calls to the inspector general's hotline, she has been working undercover for various sub-contractors to identify possible fraud. As the story opens, she works as secretary Carla Evans at the Horgan Construction Company. From the beginning Carlotta senses an uncomfortable atmosphere, especially between partners (also husband and wife) Liz and Gerry Horgan. Then one of the workers (Kevin Fournier) who has made a call to the hotline, dies of an apparent accidental fall in the tunnel.
hile Carlotta is trying to find answers to this mystery she gets drawn into another one. At the request of her office-mate Marian, she has gone to the dog care facility to check on the Horgans' mysteriously absent dog. There she encounters rich young Dana Endicott, who is eager to hire her to find her missing tenant Veejay James. Carlotta is happy to supplement her income by pursuing both inquiries at once, especially since missing person cases are her favorites.
he book moves along somewhat slowly for a good portion of the tale, probably much as things do in a real-life investigation. However, suddenly the pieces start to fall together and the two cases become believably intertwined. Barnes, with her usual plotting skills, pulls together a surprising and quite suspenseful mystery which is ultimately very satisfying. Fans will hope for another book soon to continue the new romantic relationship with FBI agent Leland Walsh.
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