THE DUTCH: A Milan Jacovich Mystery

Les Roberts, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-26579-3

A distraught father asks Milan Jacovich, Cleveland's dogged Slovenian-American private eye, to discover why his daughter Ellen jumped off of a bridge to her death, in Roberts's 12th workmanlike whodunit (after 2000's The Indian Sign). Although it appears a simple, lucrative job, Milan uncovers inconsistencies (e.g., Ellen was in her pajamas and barefoot, yet her feet were clean). Two friends for whom she worked at Wheetek Inc., a Web-site design company, provide no clues to Ellen's suicide. Milan's son's computer-expert girlfriend guides him to "fat girl" chat rooms that the obese Ellen visited, but the leads gleaned from these all prove dead ends. The plot picks up speed after two hoodlums warn Milan off the case and he persuades two homicide cops that Ellen was murdered. Perhaps the book's best moment is the surprise ending, which hinges on a sinister pornographic "fetish" Web site. Milan, loyal and brave, possesses a finely tuned moral sense. However, we hear too much about his failed marriage, while otherwise his personal life remains a blank. Roberts paints an intriguing picture of Cleveland, even if most of what we learn is what his hero eats and the names of delicatessens and streets. Though Milan has a Jack Russell terrier's determination to uncover rats, the white hats and black hats are too easily discernible. Finally, many readers will find the emphasis on physical appearance—the women are either gorgeous or fat and ugly—disconcerting. (July 16)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
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