In this second installment of the License to Lie mystery series, con artist Roxy Tanner and criminologist Skip Cosgrove contend with a scam gone wrong, death threats and their evolving romance.
At a Hollywood party and looking fabulous, Roxy Tanner is there to lure obnoxious financier Jack Welton back to his hideaway apartment. She was hired by Anita, his scorned mistress, to exact revenge. At the apartment, Roxy stuns Welton with her Taser and hacks into his computer to gain access to his illegal bank account. Anita and her brother Dom arrive to help, but Roxy leaves in haste upon learning that criminologist Skip Cosgrove—with whom she’s having a hot, if wary, affair—is in the hospital. Turns out, he was attacked by drug-world criminal Joey Santino, whom he recently testified against. Skip senses Roxy has been up to trouble and that she will want to help track Santino, so he sends her on a busywork mission to scope out a house formerly connected to the criminal. Roxy stumbles onto fresh leads, however, thanks to tips from Lily, a 12-year-old street kid. While Roxy and Lily bond and follow various trails, Skip discovers Welton is dead, and he goes on the hunt to find the killer and protect Roxy. The lovers eventually have their reunion at the home of Anita’s wise aunt Marjorie, which precedes a final sequence that resolves the crosscutting mystery plots. Author of several previous mysteries, including License to Lie (2014), which launched Roxy and Skip, Ambrose touches on high-finance malfeasance, adultery and drug dealing with the kind of snark that will remind readers of Elmore Leonard. Given their moral nuances, Roxy and Skip are entertaining anchors for a series, and the introduction of Lily brings the promise of further complications for their relationship. Yet Ambrose’s rather noir/pulp-fiction explosion of characters, settings and plot details can at times be clichéd as well as confusing, with the mysteries ultimately not as intriguing as his sleuthing protagonists. Still, the narrative moves smoothly enough, and readers will look forward to the duo’s future adventures.
A solid second round of capers featuring this attractive, cynical couple.