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LIE DOWN WITH THE DEVIL by Linda Barnes: Book Review

Linda Barnes‘s latest mystery novel takes her heroine, P.I./taxi driver Carlotta Carlyle, to a fork in the road.  It’s not the first time Carlotta has had to make a choice concerning her on-again, off-again lover Sam Gianelli.  But in Lie Down With The Devil the decision seems permanent.

Carlotta walks the path of other female private investigators, although she varies that career path with working as a cab driver down the sometimes mean streets of The Hub, as Bostonians like to refer to their city.  As in Hub of the Universe. She’s in the mold of Kinsey Milhone, V . I. Warshawski, and Sharon McCone. She’s tough, strong, and determined.   But she’s got two soft spots–one for her “foster daughter” Paolina, whose father was a Colombian drug lord, and the aforementioned Sam of the Boston mafia.  Nice company she keeps, doesn’t she?

Now Carlotta is facing two dilemmas.  Sam has left the country without explanation and without telling Carlotta where he is.  The problem is that the police and F.B.I. don’t believe Carlotta, and they’re determined to get Sam’s whereabouts from her.  And Paolina, recovering from being kidnapped and the brutal death of her father, won’t speak to Carlotta.

A new client enters.   She spins a story about being suspicious of her fiance, with only weeks left to the big wedding, and she wants Carlotta to follow him for just one night while she’s away.  If he’s faithful that night, she’ll marry him; if not, she’ll call the wedding off.  It seems kind of bizarre to Carlotta, but she needs the money and the distraction from her own problems, so she takes the case.  Then two Boston detectives come to have Carlotta identity a dead body, and it’s her client.  The name she gave Carlotta was false, the “fiance” can’t be found, and the cops think that Carlotta is responsible for the client’s hit-and-run death.

I like Linda Barnes’s mysteries, but they don’t grab me the way that Sue Grafton’s or Sara Paretsky’s  or Marcia McCone’s do.  I think that’s because Carlotta seems to have been delivered fully formed and hasn’t changed much over the books.  Perhaps that’s because Carlotta doesn’t have an estranged family like Kinsey’s.   And while V. I. doesn’t have a family, she does have her physician friend Lotte and her landlord Mr. Contreras.  And Sharon McCone has her husband Hy in addition to numerous sisters and brothers.  These characters give the heroines a more balanced life.   Paolina fills that void in some of the novels, but she’s only a child, and Carlotta needs adults in her life.  That void makes her a bit less real to me.

That being said, I do enjoy this series.  If she doesn’t have the same impact on me as the three private eyes I’ve mentioned above, that’s a matter of personal taste.  Perhaps you feel differently.  Why not let me know?

You can also learn more at Linda Barnes’ web site.

2 Responses to “LIE DOWN WITH THE DEVIL by Linda Barnes: Book Review”

  • Ann Levine says:

    Hi:

    I was honored to be able to speak to you tonight and then see the review on line. I wish I could let you know my preferences on the specific books, but I haven’t read them. But I do like a character that evolves over time. Some technical questions: How come some words are in bold? How come today is March 9, but the review is dated tomorrow?

  • Rose A. Doherty says:

    Marilyn

    You have given me several new mystery writers to read. Thank you.

    I have a special place in my heart for Carolotta because she is a grownup.

    She has to live in the real world and make good choices for herself and the people who matter to her. Carlotta has made her own family just as many folks without nuclear families must do. She makes her decisions with honor and sometimes without enough information, the way we all live.

    That said, I must say that also really like the other writers you mention.

    Rose

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