Apart from being fat and homely, Ellen Carnine had everything to live for: a sunny disposition, a well-paying job, the esteem of the bosses at her Web-design firm. So why, her distraught father asks Milan Jacovich, did she leave a suicide note on her computer screen and take a 4 a.m. header off the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, doing the Dutch over dry land instead of water just to be sure? Looking for a motive rather than a perp, Cleveland’s premier p.i. (The Indian Sign, 2000, etc.) makes the rounds of Ellen’s so-called friends—the roommate who insisted there was nothing between them, the sleek clothing designer who can’t keep the smug superiority out of her regrets, the computer-graphics designer who trolled bars in Ellen’s company because she was sure to get all the attention—and soon connects Ellen to a world of pain and sorrow. Meantime, an obligatory warning off the case from a pair of thugs alerts Milan to a clue both he and the cops should have noticed long ago that reclassifies Ellen’s death as homicide, and sends Milan into still another wary tango with his sometime ally, mob-connected stockbroker Victor Gaimari. There’ll be an early series of arrests and an ill-advised switch of gears, with Milan going to bat for the most likely conspirator before Ellen’s death, before it’s time for the final curtains.
Milan is always good company, but this time his detection is merely workmanlike, and the rickety plot weakened by too many echoes of classics from A Dance at the Slaughterhouse to I, the Jury.