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Scattered, amateurish thriller featuring an art dealer-as-sleuth poking around the mansions of Palm Beach society, by a former art dealer and heroin addict. Ramus’ second effort (Thief of Light, 1995) begins with a deceptive semblance of storytelling craft, introducing debt-dogged art dealer Wil Sumner as he helps an elderly couple sell an heirloom painting at auction. Immediately afterward, Sumner is mysteriously summoned to Palm Beach by Broward Gaines, attorney for bedridden multimillionaire Andrew Stevenson, who wants his collection of drawings appraised for sale. A poor boy who grew up serving the cabanas of Palm Beach society, Wil arrives to witness a harassing stranger being driven off by Maj, the black groundskeeper, and soon teams up with the de rigeur poolside blond in the bikini--Stevenson’s daughter, M.K.--to try to figure out why Andrew is selling what turns out to be a fabulous collection. Wil ends up fighting a lethal intruder who breaks in and demands “the file” from a medicated Andrew. In the bedside battle, the thug kills M.K.’s mother and flees, leaving the police to suspect Wil of her murder. By listening at keyholes, Wil figures out the mystery: Florida’s Spanish-born gubernatorial candidate, Roberto Salgo, is a former Falangist from the Spanish Civil War, one of Franco’s nasty young terrorists. After comatose Andrew wakes up, he confesses to Wil that, when he was a young schoolboy living in Spain, he went along with Roberto the night the gang torched a church and killed three nuns. It was his remorseful attempt to force Salgo to withdraw his candidacy by threatening to reveal his secret that has caused all the trouble. By now, of course, Salgo’s men have kidnaped M.K., leaving Wil and Maj to track down and rescue her in a bloody gun battle. A flaccid pudding that mushes together serious issues with outtakes from Baywatch and Miami Vice, although the art history details and Palm Beach milieu ring true.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018779-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998


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