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Isabel Lyman Book Reviews by Izzy Lyman

Flashpoint - A Carlotta Carlyle Mystery Flashpoint
by Linda Barnes

Nancy Drew she ainít.

Carlotta Carlyle, PI, is a six-foot redhead who can assert herself in English or Spanish if the need arises. And it does, given the scumbags she encounters on Bostonís meaner streets. Carlotta is also an accomplished picklock and former homicide detective. But thereís a touchy-feely side to the streetwise facade: The sleuth is a Big Sister to Paolina, a Latina teenager.

Flashpoint begins when Gwen Taymore, Carlottaís volleyball teammate from the “Y” and a home health aide, seeks her help with an eccentric client. Valentine Phipps is an elderly woman who lives in one of the last rent-controlled apartments in the Fenway section of Boston. Mrs. Phipps has been the target of several odd accidents that have caused her to grow increasingly protective of an heirloom she keeps stashed in the apartment. While Carlotta dislikes the senior citizenís autocratic manner, she agrees to provide her with the appropriate security measures.

Carlotta promptly returns with new locks and finds Valentine dead, of an apparent heart attack. Our heroine, naturally, suspects foul play, and a quirky game of whodunnit begins. Is it Tony Peritti, Valentineís landlord, who has been pining to sell his tenantís building to developers? Maybe itís Bronson Hohen, a music industry mogul, who claims he might be the deceasedís stepgrandson and hires Carlotta to find her papers. And why does the Jewish Reclamation Leagueís name keep popping up? Hint, hint.

As Carlotta unravels these clues, she and Paolina nearly die in an arson atttempt. To boot, she must spin Peter Breeze who is ravenous to use the Phipps investigation to further his career as a hotshot newspaper columnist.

Those who enjoy easy-to-follow fiction set in the urban Northeast will be drawn to Linda Barnesí eighth Carlotta Carlyle mystery. As a bonus, the book includes an Agatha Christie-twist which means youíll never, ever figure out the ending. The storyís multicultural flavor, punchy dialogue, and engaging characters are especially fun. Several of the characters, however, frequently engage in promiscuous behavior and coarse speech. Surely, a lively tale featuring a spunky chica like Carlotta could maintain readersí attention without so much raunch. Right, Miss Drew?

This article appeared in The Oklahoman on September 19, 1999.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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