In his latest mystery, Cardinale (The Westside Kid, 2009) explores the intersection of violence, romance and family drama.
Julian Case is trying to get his life back on track. Since his wife’s death two years ago, he has thrown himself into maintaining his realty company and some semblance of stability for his family, which is slowly moving forward after their devastating loss. His twin daughters are busy with their own lives: Flo is finishing a degree and falling in love; Frankie, the head of her own household, is considering leaving her stable banking job to become a professional kickboxer. Julian’s son, Leo, is primed to take over the family business, even if he seems more focused on his social life than on closing real estate deals. Only Julian appears to be stuck halfway between his old and new lives. While attending a relative’s wedding in Italy, he meets Alegra, a professor who ignites the possibility of a new love and happiness. But it is not to be. Upon his return home to New Jersey, Julian finds Leo unconscious and bleeding, having been beaten at some point during a party held in his father’s absence (and without permission). Leo falls into a coma, leaving Julian to help solve the mystery of why anyone would want to harm his son and to re-evaluate his own life. Through investigating Leo’s attack, Cardinale explores how losing their matriarch redefined this family’s dynamics as well as Julian’s simultaneous feelings of hope and guilt about the prospect of finally moving on. Although less developed than romantically minded readers might like, Julian’s internal struggle keeps the Alegra subplot at the fore, and Cardinale interweaves it nicely with Leo’s attempted murder. Solid dialogue gives the reader a strong sense of the characters’ personalities, especially that of Leo, who, while central to the mystery, is unconscious for most of the story. But Cardinale occasionally dips into overzealous, descriptive meanderings, as with a scene involving Alegra and her young daughter. Alegra “turned on the radio for some soft music while she prepared dinner. Caprice was in the living room playing a word game on the iPad.” Such additions feel like unnecessary padding to an otherwise strong story.
A quick, enjoyable read for mystery lovers.