A TRAIL OF BLOOD by Peter Goldman


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In Goldman’s (The Shape-Shifters, 2015, etc.) series thriller, written with private investigator Malatesta, a New York City PI works to uncover hard evidence against a very dangerous con artist. 

French actress Sophie Guichard hasn’t starred in a movie in many years. Now in her 60s, she falls for the charms of the much younger Tony Orsini. Sophie’s skeptical son, Jean-Jérôme, nicknamed “J-J,” digs into Tony’s background, and it turns out that he’s a con man with familial ties to the Corsican mob. He also has a girlfriend on the side, Paulette Guyot, with whom he’s been opening sex clubs that cater to many kinds of customers—including pedophiles. J-J reveals this to his mother, but she remains unconvinced of Tony’s vileness. J-J then calls his friend, Detective Jamie Rourke, a New York City Police Department liaison in Brussels, who, in turn, gets in touch with PI Max Christian. The former cop is much closer to Paulette than Jamie is, as she’s currently scouting Miami club locations. Max, however, is busy trying to care of his fractured family, including his wife, Meridew, and teenage son, Jay—the latter of whom a mob boss kidnapped and tortured a year ago. Still, the PI offers to act as a consultant and kicks the case to his pal, Nick Testa, who’s already established in Florida. But Nick and his goddaughter, Dani Longo, soon need Max’s help in South Beach. Max goes undercover at Club Paradoxe to obtain solid proof of Tony’s illegal activities. Unfortunately, some people catch on to the investigation and target Max, Nick, and Dani, which could put others in peril, as well. 

Goldman’s novel showcases a couple of savvy but heavily flawed detectives. Max’s persistent drinking, for example, only adds to his troubles, despite the fact that he recently began watering down his drinks with tonic. And both he and Nick, a former special ops soldier, are prone to violence, as well as occasional racial slurs, as when they repeatedly refer to a Vietnamese villain as a “gook.” The bad guys, meanwhile, are involved in multiple atrocities, including human trafficking. They prove to be potent threats to the detectives, and at least one person close to Max winds up in the hospital. The bulk of the novel is made up of dialogue, befitting a story in which characters must constantly hash out investigation specifics. There’s also a fair amount of diverting tough talk; at one point, Dani says that an armed man’s insult “was his death warrant.” However, the book culminates in a rather strange climax that jumps ahead in time, taking place “when the war was over and the smoke had cleared.” Characters then summarize what unfolded during the time jump, but these recapped confrontations lack suspense, as the people telling the stories have clearly survived. Still, the ending offers a thorough resolution that nicely ties up various subplots. Even Max’s old cop partner, Tina Falcone, takes on—and resolves—a murder case.

An absorbing detective tale with plenty of action and antiheroes.

Pub Date: June 19th, 2019
Page count: 231pp
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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