Scribner, May 2002, 24.00, 304 pp.
In 1985, Los Angeles police detectives Art Becker and Rico Chacon almost lose their lunch looking at the tortured corpses of Dwayne and Lila Mae Summers. Not long afterward they visit Lila Mae's adult daughter from her first marriage Ellen, a resident of the California Institute for Women at Frontera. Ellen is stunned with the news knowing she will receive her parole “freedom” tomorrow in time to host a funeral.
Because of her trips to the prison to see Ellen, Rico visits the reformed troublemaker turned automobile mechanic and adopted mother Munch Mancini to obtain information on who would want the innocent couple dead. Believing there is a connection to Ellen, Munch investigates even as she deals with a stalker who accuses her of stealing her life. However, she finds evidence involving stolen loot connected to Ellen that Munch hides from Rico though she is attracted to the law enforcement official. This leads to someone willing to murder children to gain what they believe is theirs while coming after Munch.
The fifth Munch Mancini amateur sleuth tale is a great novel because readers gain insight into the heroine's dark past and current motivations. The story line of NO MAN STANDING is action packed, but belongs to an impressive cast who enables the audience to better understand Munch while forwarding the who-done-it plot. The audience's hearts will reach out to the preadolescent friend of Munch's daughter who is caught in the crossfire of two selfish adults. That sidebar augments the intense look at the star though not critical to the prime theme. Fans of amateur sleuth tales will enjoy munching on Barbara Seranella's latest tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner