Kane offers a suspense novel that begins with a scene straight out of a classic noir movie.
A mysterious figure sabotages the brakes on a shiny Jaguar convertible and forces it off a mountain highway near Lake Tahoe. As a result, former Mardi Gras queen Norma Jean Darden dies in a ball of flames as the unnamed killer waves goodbye. Newspaper reporter Jane Paul starts calling other Mardi Gras queens for comment on the death, but the first several people she tries are also dead—and others soon meet similarly gruesome fates. Meanwhile, the killer reports each of his triumphs to his elderly, wheelchair-bound mother. Jane finally persuades her editor that all the deaths may be connected, and she flies to New Orleans to investigate further. A large, African-American man accosts her at the airport; she firmly tells him to get lost, but he turns out to be homicide cop Jimmy Hollingsworth, and they team up to flush out the killer. The FBI joins the chase, which becomes more urgent when the president and first lady agree to be the king and queen of the upcoming Mardi Gras parade. There’s something goofily cinematic about this novel, as it’s told in the present tense with shadowy glimpses of action, cameralike close-ups (“The Jaguar speeds by throwing up pebbles and snow in its wake”), and abrupt cuts between scenes. There are also asides meant to keep readers breathless at every plot twist: “This is a real Sickie!” says the narrator about the serial killer at one point; at another, she says, “Ooops! The plot thickens!” These moments are more likely to make genre fans giggle than gasp, though, particularly as the book’s plot seems almost entirely composed of classic mystery-movie tropes, from its opening scene to its climactic revelation about the carefully gowned old lady in the wheelchair. The dialogue is similarly dated; when the president and first lady agree not to leave their suite, for example, Hollingsworth says that it’s “really white of them,” and an FBI agent frets about being called “a worry-wart.”
An old-fashioned, over-the-top crime novel for readers who think they don’t make them like they used to.