Robert K. Tanenbaum, Author . Pocket $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-743
The Karps kick the rubes, but don't emerge unscathed in the 14th installment of the successful Karp/Ciampi series. As in previous novels, the ball gets rolling with the meddling of the brainy and unstable Marlene Ciampi, who against her better judgment ("Don't get involved, tattoo it on your forehead, Ciampi!") falls for a New York neighbor's sob story about a long-simmering family feud in a West Virginia coal town. The sudden savage murders back in West Virginia of the neighbor and her daughter and her labor-agitator husband bring both Marlene and her husband, Butch Karp, down to the boonies in their legal capacity. Their teenage daughter, nun-in-training Lucy, falls hard for the neighbor's son, and the 10-year-old twins, Zik and Zak, now growing into distinct personalities, come along for the ride. As in other novels in the series, Marlene's antics bring danger to her family's doorstep and beyond—this time resulting in a real Karp family tragedy. When disaster strikes, the ever volatile Marlene goes over the edge and calls in her trusty Vietnamese thug, Tran, and his gang of gold-hungry goons, with grisly results. While the novel displays Tanenbaum's trademark humor and adept plotting, the series has definitely taken an ominous twist with this book. Marlene (never a model of sanity) is, per usual, talking to her dogs, but now they're talking back to her. The author (who seems to greatly enjoy his book-length ruminations on the dynamics of long-lived marriage) has pulled off a coup: fans of the series will breathlessly await his next book, just to see if the Karp family can actually stand itself any more.
Reviewed on: 05/27/2002