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Wisecracking dialogue and a fresh locale (Jersey City) more or less compensated for the uninvolving plot machinations in Rider's first outing for shamus Malone, Jersey Tomatoes (1986). This time, however, the repartee is more relentless than delightful, the backgrounds never quite come into focus, and the mystery remains drably convoluted. Again, Malone takes on two new cases that intertwine. Case #1: Someone's sending threatening letters to rising pro-wrestling star John Samson, the ""Jersey Giant""--and then Samson's glitzy assistant Miss Delilah (""She hangs around the ring with her balloons popping out to distract the other clown"") is dead, via poison and/or boa constrictor. Case #2: Narcissa Sue Samples, a stripper with firm scruples and theological career-plans, needs help in handling a sleazy boss--till said boss is murdered, apparently because of his involvement in loan-sharking. The two investigations have a common denominator: a ruthless hit man named Prince. But the unraveling, punctuated by rough-stuff confrontations with assorted villains, is anything but neat or shapely. Despite the faintly amusing hoopla of the seedy pro-wrestling scene, the supporting cast here--promoters, managers, gangsters--is disappointingly blurry. Malone himself, along with tartly bossy secretary Selma, never rises much above generic hard-boiled smart, aleckiness. Still: serviceable formula fare for those who like their shamuses violent but chatty.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1987
Publisher: Arbor House