Picking up an unspecified short time after events in “The Big Dig” Private Investigator Carlotta Carlyle has a sense that someone is watching her as she runs errands. She soon spots him and he isn't very good at tailing her. She eventually confronts the man who isn't very good at hiring a private investigator either.
What the middle aged black man is good at is being a professor at nearby Harvard University. Dr. Wilson Chaney has a major problem. He recently had an affair with a student in one of his classes who subsequently died after the affair ended. He can't deny the affair should word leak out as someone has proof in the form of love letters he wrote the dead woman. Someone is using those letters to blackmail the professor, one letter at a time. He has already paid once, thinking that would be the end of it. Of course, it wasn't and now the blackmailer is back. The blackmailer is offering to sell him another letter at a hefty price increase.
For the professor, the problem isn't that he is black and the student was white. The issue is that this was the latest in a whole series of affairs he has conducted over the years, often with students. The political climate at Colleges and Universities has changed and with families suing schools, such behavior is no longer expected, accepted, and tolerated. It could cost him his prestigious, though non-tenured, position at Harvard as well as what is left of his shaky marriage. He can't afford to lose either for a variety of reasons. There are other considerations as well, which he refuses to specify, and Dr. Chaney wants help.
Despite the fact that Carlyle finds the man and his behavior to her and others despicable, she agrees to accept the case and begins looking for the blackmailer. Her mission is not to involve law enforcement but to instead, find a way to blackmail the blackmailer so that he or she stops. Carlyle has a couple of ideas how to go about this and as she works, it becomes increasingly clear that neither idea has any chance of success. In fact, as she investigates, the case becomes increasingly complex and goes in ways that she never saw coming and she has no idea who is doing what. But the blackmailer knows exactly what Carlyle is doing and what she wants and has no intention of putting up with Carlyle wandering around getting in the way and ruining a perfectly good payday.
While an interesting premise, something went wrong in the execution. Not only are most of the characters outside of Carlyle's circle of friends despicable in many ways, the read itself is flat and boring. While Carlyle tells the reader repeatedly how upset she is, how much she misses Sam (her on again off again love interest who now happens to be a major player in the Mob and not around), or how confused she is about her new relationship with FBI Agent Leonard Wells (first introduced in “The Big Dig”) we never feel it. Instead, while constantly told, the connection with the reader is never made and as such, for this reader at least, never drawn into the world of the book. Left out and looking in, this slow book moves ponderously forward as Carlyle ruminates endlessly on what to do.
It doesn't matter if it is her personal life or her professional one, she constantly reminds one and all that they have to take her as is, and then doesn't have a clue what to do next. Unfortunately that has been the underlying theme of the last couple novels and this is no exception. While often thinking about her love life and how messed up it is she drifts from one weak lead to another working the case. In almost every meeting, the character she deals with is from the lower end of the gene pool and should be encouraged to crawl back under the rock he or she came from.
The ending does finally come after 310 pages but it takes a long time to get there. For those that are already familiar with the series, this one is one to skip. Nothing new happens and no advancement at all occurs in terms of character development. For those new to the series, this one could easily be read as a stand alone as except for a few vague references to the past, it deals with the present and does not reveal events from previous books. However, while it is a stand alone in that sense, it is not a good introduction to the author or her normally enjoyable work.
This report prepared by Kevin R. Tipple
Carlotta Carlyle, Boston PI and occasional cabbie, begrudgingly takes on the blackmail case of suspicious Harvard professor Wilson Chaney. The blackmailer is holding love letters from Chaney to a dead woman, Denali Brinkman. A black man, Chaney is concerned that he will lose his job if his boss discovers that he had an affair with a white student. However, Carlotta finds herself drawn into not only the blackmail case, but Denali's suicide, which Carlotta feels might have been a murder. Denali's death leads Carlotta to Denali's lover, an ex-con, who also ends up dying an untimely and violent death. Carlotta, while struggling with her current relationship with the FBI agent she met on her last big job and her past relationship with mafia boss Sam Gianelli, tries to find the blackmailer, the killer, the truth, and the reason behind it all.
This report prepared by Sarrah
St. Martin's, Mar 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
Boston area private investigator Carlotta Carlyle noticed the mark trailing her throughout Harvard Square. She pulls a magician's trick and accosts her tracker. He insists he was not stalking her, but instead working up the courage to consult with her in a professional capacity.
He explains that “his friend” is being blackmailed and paying failed to end the nightmare. Tenured Harvard Professor Wilson Chaney admits he had an affair with a freshman student Denali Brinkman. Realizing that revelation of his taboo indiscretion would end his career Wilson hires Carlotta to uncover the identity of his blackmailer so he can persuade the person to stop. Though Carlotta literally (only slightly that is) and figuratively (totally) looks down at her client especially over the age of his lover, she accepts the case.
Carlotta digs deep into the background of her client and his former teen lover. She searches for threads at the University and in Wilson's personal life, finding a vehicular death link. Unable to resist, Carlotta goes down the side path that this death takes her not realizing how dangerous her detour will soon prove as there is much more to this case than simply a blackmailed cheating husband
In her tenth appearance, Carlotta remains an invigorating private investigator. Her latest case DEEP POCKETS is a fabulous detective story that starts rather differently, but quite exhilaratingly before turning into a suspense thriller. Carlotta deals with ethics issues throughout the tale beginning with her odious client and continuing when she chose a lane that might not be in the best interest of the professor. This six foot one former police officer still kicks butt as one of Boston's finest.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner