A BEAUTIFUL VOICE by Robert Lane

A BEAUTIFUL VOICE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A private investigator, tasked with protecting a drug cartel snitch, discovers a complex criminal operation in this sixth installment of a series. 

Jake Travis is hired to babysit Alejandro Vizcarro, a bookkeeper for Sergio Flores, the head of a Mexican drug cartel. The plan is to smuggle Vizcarro—who is prepared to exchange incriminating information for safe passage and protection for himself and his wife, Martina—into the United States. But when the detective collects Vizcarro, he realizes he’s also bringing the bookkeeper’s two daughters and Joe, his 3-year-old nephew. Joe is now Vizcarro’s ward after Flores had his brother killed along with his wife and three other children. Soon, Vizcarro and Martina are murdered, and the children mysteriously disappear—Jake feels compelled to dig deeper and see if he can uncover any information that leads to their discovery. While canvassing the neighborhood, he meets Stephen Cole, a former attorney—he once represented Sean Wright, a dirty cop who he believes was killed by drug cartel assassins. But the further Jake investigates Vizcarro’s murder, the less it makes sense—Cole believes the victim was an unlikely candidate for a cartel bookkeeper and suspects that Martina wasn’t really his wife. Not only is it possible that the deaths of Wright and Vizcarro are connected, but also that the latter’s murder isn’t even the end game for Flores. Jake is confronted by the morbid possibility that the vanished children, or at least one of them, are the real prize. Lane (Naked We Came, 2017, etc.) once again showcases Jake, a protagonist perfectly suited (if somewhat formulaically) to the genre. Hardened by grim experience, he is also capable of both moral principle and emotional vulnerability. The plot is exceeding complex—one could quibble it demands a lot from readers in search of pulp detective fiction—but it never devolves into convolution. Unfortunately, the dialogue’s staccato banter quickly becomes more exhausting than clever: “ ‘What did you do?’ ‘Robbed a bank.’ ‘You did not,’ she said. ‘Stole the sheriff’s horse.’ ‘Seriously.’ ‘Shot a wabbit?’ ”

An action-packed ride that is sometimes slowed by tedious dialogue.

Page count: 408pp
Publisher: Mason Alley Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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