EVIL ENVY by Paul S. Howard


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A plastic surgeon looking into a friend’s murder dives into an underworld of Russian mobsters and biker gangs in this thriller.

Having evaded the Russian Mafia in Paris, Dr. Tedy Merrill opts for hiding among the scores of plastic surgeons in Miami. Surprisingly, Tedy runs into Sophie Carpue, part of the reason Russians had targeted him and who he believed was dead. The two have a conversation, but afterward Sophie steers clear of Tedy. Seems she’s going by the name of Nadya and is always at the side of gangster Ivan Kasparov. To find Sophie again without alerting any Russians, Tedy enlists Michael, a private investigator. Michael assembles a “Motley Crew,” with Tedy’s pal Clint, bartender Zeke, and Zeke’s helper, parolee Sammy. Unfortunately, one of the crew turns up floating off of Virginia Key. Tedy naturally suspects the Russian mob, but there’s also a chance that the murder is related to drugs, and his ensuing investigation entails South Florida biker gangs. Though it’s dangerous business, Tedy can more than hold his own in scuffles with bikers or Russians. Keeping a low profile, however, is no longer feasible, and the surgeon once again ends up in someone’s cross hairs. Howard’s (Perception as Reality, 2015) story begins like a series of vignettes, including tales of assorted patients: sympathetic Precious’ facial deformity and a woman sharing post-surgery meds with her husband. But the search for Sophie effectively grounds the narrative, with the murder ultimately taking the spotlight. The lively tale’s packed with details that sometimes aid in making Tedy fairly unlikable, like listing popular but illegal training substances he uses. Howard, a plastic surgeon himself, makes a convincing argument that those in his profession aren’t always rich (they must pay for malpractice insurance, marketing, etc.) but seemingly contradicts it with Tedy’s Ferrari, $3,000 Italian suits, and preference for carrying $5,000 in cash. The ending delivers a resolution that is confusing, as someone who saves Tedy later wants him dead for a pre-existing reason.

A few stumbles but a sturdy mystery led by a curiously flawed protagonist.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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