cover image No Colder Place

No Colder Place

S. J. Rozan. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-16811-7

It's a nice inside joke when, in this fourth book in the Bill Smith and Lydia Chin series, a dedicated bricklayer complains about how the architect of the 40-story Manhattan apartment building he's working on doesn't ""give a shit about anything on this job except the fucking aesthetics. He don't understand what makes a building work."" Those words are spoken by Mike DiMaio to Bill, who's working undercover as a mason to find out why the construction site is plagued by thefts and deaths. It's funny because Rozan, in addition to being a Shamus winner (for 1995's Concourse), is also a New York architect. She certainly understands how a good mystery works: by doing your homework, using the best quality materials and keeping the surprises coming until the very end. Since Lydia was the star of Rozan's last book, Mandarin Plaid, it's Bill's turn to take control, and it's fun to see his side of their fond but apparently unconsummated relationship. While Bill is up in the clouds laying bricks, Lydia gets a job as a secretary in the construction bosses' trailer. Both see plenty of action as what at first appears to be a simple case of a few crooked workers turns out to be a much more complicated story of twisted relationships among sharply sketched characters: the tough-minded DiMaio; the ambivalent ex-cop who first gets Bill involved; the fierce black female entrepreneur who seems capable of doing anything to get her building up. But best of all are Bill and Lydia, originals who are strong enough to carry emotional baggage from other books without weakening their credibility. (Sept.)