cover image A Trouble of Fools

A Trouble of Fools

Linda Barnes. St. Martin's Press, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-312-01100-0

Boston-based private eye Carlotta Carlyle is the newest creation of the author of the lively Michael Sprague mysteries. In addition to being red-haired, 61 tall, a former cabbie and an ex-cop, Carlotta is the sort of storyteller capable of enlisting readers' sympathies at the very outset. Her first adventure involves a missing person. An elderly Irish woman hires her to find her brother, Eugene, who has vanished from their home, leaving behind a mysterious cache of $13,000. Eugene's cronies, who, like himself, are drivers for a taxi fleet and secret sympathizers with the Irish cause, seem to be involved with a scheme in support of the IRA. Having once worked for the cab company herself, Carlotta hires on again to monitor their activities, an action that eventually sets her at odds with a major drug ring, the FBI and a certain Mafia-connected former lover. All of the above learn that it's not wise to step on the toes of someone who wears size 11 shoes. Carlotta first made a brief appearance in a prize-winning short story called ""Lucky Penny''; in this longer form, she's pure gold. (November)