cover image Coyote


Linda Barnes. Delacorte Press, $18.95 (257pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30012-4

Although the title may suggest a Western setting, Coyote brings back to familiar Boston territory six-foot-tall, flame-haired sleuth Carlotta Carlyle. This time the ex-cop and sometime cab-driver prowls overcrowded apartments where illegal aliens rest--and sometimes find their final resting places--after their ill-paid labors. Carlotta's latest case is neatly tied in with her sensitively depicted relationship with Paolina, a child she has befriended through the Big Sister program who has led a troubled alien, Manuela Estafan, to Carlotta. But when Manuela disappears and her I.D. is found on the mutilated body of a murder victim, Carlotta's investigations--running parallel to work done by her cop-friend Mooney--reveal the work of a ``coyote''--one who exploits illegal aliens. The case also teaches Carlotta a surprising lesson: much like male private eyes of yore, Carlotta looks at the opposite sex in sexually stereotyped terms. When her libido overcomes her better judgment she makes an error that could prove fatal. Carlotta is at her best when she focuses on the personal plight of the individuals who make up the nameless legion of potential deportees. While discovering the truth about them, she convincingly provides wisdom and comfort to the child she adores. Mystery Guild main selection. (Nov.)