VIRGIL'S GHOST by Irving Weinman


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The third outing for NYPD detective Lenny Schwartz (Tailor's Dummy, Hampton Heat)--now gone private after leaving the force over his guilt about putting his son through Yale on the proceeds of a bribe from druglord Juan Montanares--is his strongest yet. But that isn't because Schwartz is at his strongest: the conceit of a Harvard-Jewish cop married to a lapsed. Catholic art historian seems to have been wearing thin even to Weinman, who has Lenny's wife Karen toss him out when he announces he's off the force, and he goes through most of the book in a fog. Despite his depression, however, there's more mystery and detection than ever before as Lenny scrabbles for clues to the maybe-murder of Virgil Hayes, whose father, a latter-day John Bircher, hires him to prove his son didn't die of AIDS. Nobody wants to talk to Lenny, and no wonder: the word is that Virgil was killed at a snuff show; the CIA is trying to cover up the fact that Virgil's sarcoma was actually radiation poisoning he got from investigating the Shoreham nuclear plant; Lenny's own client seems to be in on the cover-up; even his partner, Russian immigrant-hustler Abrasha Addison, knows more than he's telling Weinman still can't resist the coincidences--Lenny keeps running into the same people, including Karen, wherever he goes, and every hunch pays off--or the Big Scenes (a conceptual-art event, a comic rumble at Abrasha's, the obligatory overslung climax pitting Montanares against a CIA amputee fetishist) that make his storytelling lumpy; but the mix of moody-jokey introspection, kinky sex, institutional paranoia, and honest detective work is grittily effective. A more muffled detective and beefier plotting--two good reasons to check this one out.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Ballantine