Last August I promised myself I'd read another Romilia Chacon mystery. It's June and I haven't, so it was with a pang of guilt that I picked up a detective novel featuring Melanie Vargas, a federal prosecutor working New York city's sleazy crime scenes.
Michele Martinez' current offering is The Finishing School. Two high school girls dead from heroin overdoses. A missing girl. A hunky cop and Melanie can't connect. Single mom Melanie keeps her ex- in close proximity for child care and spontaneous sex. There's a mixed bag of bad guys. The corrupt administrator at the fancy private school. The dead girl's father. A flashy drug dealer.
Martinez likes to keep several stories going forward. Melanie and Dan lust so intently they repel one another, or collapse in outrage. The kidnaped girl and her sister. The tryst between the administrator and the dead girl's father. The drug ringleaders, the flashy guy and the mysterious voice. The investigation and its cast of characters, Ray Ray, Bridget, and Dan.
Running five threads can become a burden, leading Martinez to take plot shortcuts. But the writer also rewards the reader with some gems of expressiveness. The synaesthesia of the following may come back at you in the future when you're standing near a snack bar:
"The big metal elevator heaved and shimmied its way up to the Sky Rink. He came out into a large seating area that reeked of what he first thought was vomit and then realized was the soggy cheese on the pizzas at the concession stand." 179
But then maybe since the "he" is a bad guy, it could be a case of what you smell is what you are? These are some evil bad guys. Melanie herself is recklessly adventuresome, as when she goes into a dark tunnel with a suspect. But she's not adventuresome enough to figure out how to connect with Dan. But that's Martinez' fault. She's still working out some of the character's quirks, like the titillating elevator ride, when Dan and Melanie find the perfect moment for a grope ascending the elevator to her place. Of a single mind, they rush to Melanie's apartment only to lose their ardor when the ex-husband answers the door with two glasses of champagne.
The Finishing School is Martinez' second in the Vargas series. When I hit the shelves next week, I'll be looking for Martinez' Most Wanted, and another of Villatoros' Romilia Chacon novels.
Did you see my epiphyllum blossoms? I had the last purple magenta giant yesterday. It was Sunday, and was home and could see it all day long. Makes it hard to write and read. See you next week.