A disembodied corpse gives new meaning to the phrase “arms race.”
One arm’s turned up in Venice Beach, a second in Malibu. Whose arms are they, and where’s the rest of her? LAPD Detective Sergeant Reggie Brooks, sweating to keep the case from going cold, thinks he can answer the first question: They’re the once lovely arms of the breathtakingly beautiful Laura Finnegan—“a Modigliani come to life,” now vanished. Brooks knew Laura. Moonlighting as a martial-arts instructor, he not only taught her but managed to fall in love with her. Actually, it’s been more a matter of obsession for someone who “never wanted a white girl before.” But that’s what Laura can do to men. There’s the Mexican fisherman, for instance, who watched her windows longingly at night. There’s her boorish boss and the nerdy accountant, both spellbound by her. And of course there’s loathsome Scott Goodsell, a man you don’t dump with impunity. He’s changed from ardent lover to relentless stalker and, in Brooks’s view, leading suspect. If Laura’s been murdered, Brooks vows he’ll bring her killer to justice. But what if she hasn’t been? What if, in fact, the arms belong to someone else?
Character bends too readily to the requirements of plot in Francisco’s second (Confessions of a Death Maiden, 2003), reducing the good stuff to flashes.