Black Lotus

In Lepie’s debut mystery, the murder of an undercover cop gives police detective Lotus Williams a chance to resuscitate her career.
Williams has been watching soaps and smoking marijuana ever since cancer killed her daughter, Jewel, but her use of cocaine cost her her job at the Lofton, New York, police department. She gets clean after an old friend, a cop named Jimmy O’Roark, arrives on her doorstep. It turns out that Francesca Corelli, the charismatic, beautiful police chief of the town of New Parise, is offering her a fresh start. Williams soon delves into an investigation of the death of an undercover officer who’d been embedded in the town’s leading drug gang, run by an African-American albino man named Charles Himmel, also known as Snow Black. One of Williams’ old Vassar classmates, Vanessa King, lived out Williams’ dream of graduating from Harvard Law, but a law partner’s racial slur prompted her to work for Himmel. King argues that Himmel brings work and money to the black community by supplying a consumer good. (It’s a drug-lord-as-CEO model that’s similar to the one personified by Stringer Bell in the TV show The Wire.) King accuses the local mob, run by Pauli Trinceri, of killing the cop; they’re also suspected in the murder of Corelli’s father, the previous police chief. Jean “Zazz” Zazzinsky, a lesbian reporter fired from the local newspaper, is investigating that crime, despite Corelli’s antagonism; depending on who’s telling the story, Zazz is unhinged and obsessed with Francesca Corelli, or a threat to a powerful woman who has something to hide. The first-person narration shifts between various characters, including Williams, Zazz, other police officers and Butch Roman, the chief’s Italian-American bodybuilder lover. They speak as if to an off-screen interviewer, but the narrative transitions can sometimes be jarring and awkward. Although the storyline feels like a mashup of familiar mobster and gangster plots, its awareness of race, gender and sexual orientation shades it with greater depth. Williams, meanwhile, comes off as both soulful and hard-boiled, a woman who’s suffered, yet still strives to do right in a compromised world.
A standard-issue noir tale featuring a nonstandard detective.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1490566467

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Treasure Chest Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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