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Eve Missing

Author: Ralph Pezzullo
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Dale Stoyer

540Ralph Pezzullo's first P.I. novel is a quickly paced, hard-edged mystery served with heaping portions of sex and action.

Unlike other disgraced ex-cop protagonists, we get more than hints about how Anthony "Smokey" Annicelli got that way. The book opens with a frank account of Smokey's last days on the force and the last call he took with his partner Wolf. When the dust settles he has been squeezed out of the force under an umbrella of doubt and suspicion. The book fast-forwards a few months to a different Annicelli living on his pension and feeling sorry for himself. He takes a friend's advice and calls the mysterious and well-connected Sabino Goldstick who helps start the healing process.

Through Sabino, Smokey meets a troubled girl named Lina and helps put her life back on track, keeping in touch with her over the years as she blossoms into a sought after fashion model. The book fast- forwards another 10 years, and Lina calls Smokey when her friend, Eve, disappears.

It turns out that Eve started out on the street as Angela Bowman and was taken in by Danielle Giroux on a 'rescue-the-street-urchin' whim. In a year and a half Danielle is able to use her connections to help launch Eve's own modeling career. Then Eve walked out leaving nothing but questions in her wake.

Annicelli's investigation leads him on a tangled trail of love gone wrong. Almost every character he encounters is involved with at least two lovers, which complicates his task. Smokey becomes sexually entangled with most of the women he encounters along the way, but loses his objectivity when he becomes emotionally involved with Danielle. Not long after he begins to suspect that Eve is not just missing, but in fact may be dead, Lina wants him off the case.

Smokey has no trouble finding clues, and isn't afraid to get physical if it will help get the information he needs. Pezzullo doesn't make his hero bulletproof, though, and the result is a refreshing take on the crusading P.I. This is a good first effort that sets the stage for an interesting series. There's plenty of action and sex, some interesting characters, a convoluted mystery and a memorable climax. Really the only flat note in the book comes early on, when Smokey heads to Florida for his daughter's pregnancy driven wedding. He spends a couple of days (and a whole chapter) playing Travis McGee to his friend Mel's Meyer on a booze soaked, sun-drenched boat trip to Bimini. At the end of it, he spends a quick page on his daughter's wedding and it's back to New York where the events from Florida have little effect on the rest of the story.

Ralph Pezzulo is an award winning playwright and a screenwriter who has even written for Miami Vice (which may explain the Florida excursion), so it is no surprise that the book is well written and entertaining. He has clearly set the stage for an ongoing series, and created some memorable characters, including Smokey himself. It's refreshing to see a protagonist forced to deal with the aftermath of being shot, in a business where that is a very real occupational hazard.

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May 28, 2004 in Mystery | Permalink

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