Filomena Buscarsela (The Glass Factory, 2000, etc.) is one busy muchacha these days. To make a better living (and maybe move herself and her 12-year-old daughter Antonia out of their single room and into a real apartment), she’s decided to earn her p.i. license, so she hires herself out to Davis and Brown, a detective agency in the heart of ethnic Queens. Her fluent Spanish puts her first on call for the most thankless cases, like the disappearance of Pablo Muñoz, who left his mother for migrant farm work in Suffolk County and never came back, and the search for Fred Lopez, the fire equipment inspector who certified the equipment at P.S. 112 safe two weeks before it blew up. Fil’s natural curiosity gets her into other cases, like the that of Sonny Tesoro, one of the squatters living in a self-renovated factory who one day, for no apparent reason, brandished a loaded gun at six of NYPD’s finest and got himself thrown into the slammer, leaving his wife and baby alone and penniless. And she even draws an occasional non-Hispanic mystery like the theft of videotapes from the Dvrushnik factory. But the case that really hooks her is the beating death of housing activist Manny Morales: a fatality the mayor’s office is ready to write off as just another random street crime unless Fil can prove otherwise.
A good, though not a great, read. Still, anyone who’s lived in non–rent-controlled apartment will doubtless respond to Fil’s search for truth, justice, and affordable housing.