[Barbara Hambly] juggles these multiple storylines with the greatest of skill. Though the cast of characters includes such bayou staples as a voodoo priestess, cruel overseers, beautiful octoroons, lazy plantation owners and loyal slaves, Hambly never once presents the reader with a stereotype. Her characters are complex, neither saint nor sinner. And she shows the reader the relationships among these individuals, connections that cross New Orleans's intricate family, racial and social structures.
Lise McClendon created the memorable [Dorie Lennox] in last year's One O'Clock Jump and brings her back for a lively second round in Sweet and Lowdown (St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95). McClendon turns the tables on some hardboiled cliches to great effect, but what really makes the book work is her unexpectedly moving characterizations, along with her ability to convey the simultaneous sorrow, uncertainty and excitement of wartime. Maintaining the tough attitude of a Chandler-era P.I. while building emotional depth is not an easy juggling act to pull off, but McClendon is up to the challenge.
When fire destroys an abandoned fruit stand along a rural highway near Sante Fe, the body of a Vietnam vet is discovered among the ashes. Clayton Istee, a former tribal investigator who is half- Apache and the newest deputy in the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, catches the call. But when a second body is found in the cellar of the stand and proves to be a woman who disappeared over a decade before, Clayton's estranged father, Sante Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney, enters the case. As emerging evidence points toward the existence of a massive multi-state vice ring, the focus of the book shifts: Istee, Kaerney and their associates must try to bring down the powerful and seemingly respectble men who profit from this sophisticated operation involving gambling, drugs and sex-for-hire. A lively supporting cast of assorted law enforcement pros is brought on board, and their interlocking efforts take on a momentum that will keep you turning the pages in hopes that justice will be done.
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