Final Acts

Alex Abella, Author
Alex Abella, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-85989-7
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The rites and rituals of Santeria as seen through a thriller lens lay a gory groundwork in Abella's (The Killing of the Saints; Dead of Night) latest, once again starring lawyer/ author/private investigator Charlie Morell. Picking up where Dead of Night left off, when Morell's own Santeria beliefs result in his arrest for two brutal cult murders in Los Angeles and Alameda, this novel begins as Morell turns to Latina lawyer Rita Carr to mount his defense. Carr is skeptical when her client claims to be the victim of a massive conspiracy involving the L.A. County prosecutor's office, but the theory gains credence when Carr and Morell learn that prosecuting DA Phil Fuentes was indeed part of a coverup surrounding the supposed suicide of state senator Tom Decker. Abella employs an awkward technique, alternating Carr's Philip Marlowesque first-person narrative with the story Morell is writing of his own case as events ensue. He does little to flesh out a very thin plot, jumping into the murder scene without providing sufficient background on either Morell or the Santeria cult. The role of the cult remains largely undeveloped through most of the narrative, but Morell is given numerous opportunities to spout a peculiar spiritual psychobabble that slows down the plot and adds little to the story. Carr's engaging character is never fleshed out, and the appearance of a demonic cat burglar in her apartment provides a slapdash resolution to the book, which should satisfy the author's fans but won't do much to broaden his reader base. Agent, Joseph Regal, Russell & Volkening. (Dec.)
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