Thursday, May 08, 2008

He Is The Great Pretender

Decoy #2, MOON OVER MIAMI, may have been the last of Signet's series. Whereas the first book, THE GREAT PRETENDER, found hero Nick Merlotti on assignment for the government in search of stolen heroin, MOON OVER MIAMI plays like a TV mystery. For no good reason, besides the fact that his confidante, the mysterious Mr. Waves, talks him into it, Merlotti investigates the murder of an elderly Miami woman, who was beaten to death inside her home. A young Latino, who refuses to provide an alibi for the time of the killing, is arrested and presumed guilty. Waves is convinced of his innocence; Merlotti, not so much, though he looks into it anyway.

Jim Deane's mystery reads pretty well, though one must admit not much happens. The big setpiece involves Merlotti's capture by a mobster who's only tangentially involved with the plot. Merlotti's preoccupation with sex, which smacks you in the face from the book's first awkward sentence, is distracting, especially when he becomes intimately involved with the 17-year-old high school "fuck goddess," Vicki Greystock, who is a witness putting the Latino suspect at the scene of the crime.

When it comes to whodunits, Deane is no Rex Stout, and when it comes to bang-bang action, he's no Don Pendleton, but you could do worse than this jumble. I don't believe there were any other Decoy books (Merlotti does no decoying in either), and it's not hard to figure why.

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