Two private investigators take on a homicidal illusionist, but what the detectives don’t know about each other is just as dangerous as the magician’s man-eating tigers.
After solving one of the most complicated and high-profile murders in Hollywood history, ex-cops Maureen O’Brien and Blake Ervansky set out to turn good press into big money for their new detective agency. They are soon approached by Cerise Marginata, an aging pop star whose husband, Josef Lucasz, was just mauled by one of the Bengal tigers he performed with nightly in a Las Vegas magic show. Cerise believes the attack was orchestrated by the other half of Josef’s act, his “mentor,” Landon Wilke, who has more reasons than just professional jealousy to want his partner dead. But if trying to outwit a master of misdirection’s circuitous murder plot wasn’t hard enough, Maureen’s dubious past as a CIA assassin also rears its ugly head, threatening to leave Blake and the agency out in the cold. Kelly (Winged, 2011, etc.) and Lyons (Murder in One Take, 2012) return to their distinctive brand of mystery starring the LA-based duo who combine traditional investigation with the Hollywood perspective of Maureen’s TV-producer father. Darker than its predecessor, this installment doesn’t sacrifice the humor or turns of phrase that were the hallmarks of the first. Rather, those things appear here again, tighter and more polished, and the novel as a whole boasts a deftness with language that outpaces its rather pulpy story. Those unfamiliar with the first book can easily pick up this one, as the authors offer succinct recaps, and there’s plenty of insight into almost all of the characters, recurring and not, with point-of-view shifts utilized in effective though jarring ways. This entry in the series even feels too far removed at times, as much of the bonding between Blake and Maureen seems (at least initially) ignored. That aside, the characters fall easily into place with each other and the overly complex plot; the biggest criticism to be leveled is that the book tries to do too much. The revelations about Maureen’s CIA past, along with how her father ties in, could have easily been a novel unto itself, but instead, it shares an already crowded focus with an equally sensationalistic tale of killer stage tigers.
A little too much going on, but still manages to be tight and sharp-witted.