Tanenbaum, who must sit up nights mining law-and-order headlines for ethical dilemmas, comes a cropper with this overstuffed 13th case for crusading New York A.D.A. Butch Karp and his wife, personal-security consultant Marlene Ciampi.
In fact, the caseload is tripled, not just doubled, between Butch and Marlene, because, as in their last several outings, their genius daughter Lucy, who ought to be in school learning a new language every month, is stirring up her own trouble. This time, she’s cutting classes to work in a Catholic soup kitchen that puts her in touch with some unsavory types, from Canman (né John Williams), soon to be identified as the leading suspect in the killings of a mounting list of his fellow street dwellers, to Fake Ali (né Jerome Watkins), the victim whose body Lucy discovers. While Lucy is scouring the streets of Manhattan for Canman, who she can’t believe is guilty, her father caroms from a truckload of fishy cases (a crook who was supposedly about to ram a police cruiser is shot ten times in the back, an aspiring client of Marlene’s kills a homeless man who was allegedly in the process of mugging her even though he was already carrying a pricey Lady Rolex) back to his old hotseat as acting chief of Homicide. But it’s Marlene who ends up in the deepest trouble, a victim of her own success when the IPO of the security firm that’s gobbled up her partnership with Harry Bellow sends her net worth soaring overnight, and she promptly shops and drinks herself into a wild spree that can’t possibly end well.
As usual, there’s much, much more, but this time Tanenbaum, fresh from the well-wrought True Justice (2000), seems as overwhelmed as any real-life D.A. by the banquet of felonies. The NYPD politics still have a satisfying stench, but the many mysteries manage to be both as murky and as transparent as the East River.