Though Artie Cohen, that handsome devil, is no longer a cop (see the series debut, Red Hot Blues, 1998), sleuthing remains meat and drink to him. His friends know that, and it's at least part of the reason they think of him first whenever they're in trouble. A case in point is certainly Hillel Abramsky: Hillel's current trouble is stretched out on the floor of his office—in the form of a very dead Chinese girl. And no, Artie, he can't dial 911 because, well, he just can't. Subsequently, Artie discovers that Hillel's no-account brother Sherman, up to his usual no-goodnik tricks, is the inhibiting factor. But by that time Artie's deep into an investigation that takes him all over Chinatown and eventually to Hong Kong—on the trail of a world-class villain called the Debt Collector. It's an investigation that involves exotic drugs (the "Hot Poppies" of the title), pornography, a brutal baby-racket, and a miscellany of nefarious activities. It also involves Artie (to whom womanizing is the stuff of ritual) with a diversity of stunning ladies, all eager to bed him. Among the males he meets, on the other hand, the inclination is to bash him, a thing that happens with some regularity. In Hong Kong, Artie bumps into old friends, confronts new enemies, and at last catches up with the Debt Collector, whose identity is a shocker—to him at least. A mishmash of a plot, redeemed every 30 pages or so by the introduction of some colorful character or another. But color Artie himself a pale imitation, and with him at the series center, the center does not hold.
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