Bad Night is Falling

Gary Phillips, Author Berkley Prime Crime $21.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-425-16302-3
In Phillips's third Ivan Monk mystery (after Violent Spring and Perdition, U.S.A.), the African American Los Angeles PI, who also owns a donut shop, investigates a fatal firebombing in the Rancho Tajuata housing project. Monk is hired by the head of the Ra-Falcons, a Black Muslim splinter group that was hired to work security at the multiracial project, to clear them of responsibility in the fiery death of a family from Mexico. The search for the bombers leads Monk through a minefield of racial tension between the black residents and the burgeoning Latino population and back to some shady financial dealings that started with the 1965 Watts riots. Monk's lady, Superior Court Judge Jill Kodama, is the object of a nasty recall campaign because of her reluctance to enforce the controversial ""Three Strikes"" law. Both story lines are compelling and supported by convincing characterization and effective action and sex scenes. But these qualities are compromised by numerous instances of ungainly word choice, ungrammatical constructions and clotted metaphors. For example, this is Monk's observation of a lighted room full of young gang members: ""A compressed thing of pain and fury, soon to spin off its spirochetes in erratic orbits to zoom, and eventually falter, in a universe of chaos."" Without the continual distractions of sloppy writing and/or editing, this novel would have packed a significantly greater punch. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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