cover image Final Vows

Final Vows

Karen Kingsbury. Dell Publishing Company, $4.99 (417pp) ISBN 978-0-440-21198-3

This generally smoothly written but ultimately unsatisfying book by Los Angeles Times reporter Kingsbury (Missy's Murder) relates the 1988 murder of Carol Montecalvo, a divorcee who married an ex-convict and was shot on the eve of a trip aimed to save her marriage. While husband Dan Montecalvo was the initial suspect--with his voice oddly uninflected while talking to an emergency operator and his eyes dry when being told of the death--Burbank police had to drop charges before gaining new evidence and re-arresting him. Dan's insistence on helping to represent himself served to seal his conviction; there was also strong evidence against him, including large gambling debts and high-value insurance policies on his wife. The narrative occasionally bogs down with biographical sketches of the detectives and lawyers, but its larger problem is conceptual: early on Kinsbury introduces the Montecalvos' neighbor Suzan Brown, a drug dealer, harborer of criminals and sometime mental patient. Brown's statements are given more credence as the book continues; finally, she admits that her associates killed Carol, though police discount it. The author owes the reader a greater effort to distinguish whether or not the authorities found the real killer. (Oct.)