cover image Hard Look

Hard Look

Robert J. Randisi. Walker & Company, $21 (252pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-1251-6

A deft balance of sharp sleuth patter, hard luck and cheap graft enlivens this sequel to Separate Cases . New York shamus Miles Jacoby closes up his bar, buys a plane ticket and heads down Florida-way to look for a woman bodybuilder, missing for six months, whose husband claims to have recognized her in a girlie postcard. The husband's story isn't exactly airtight, but Jacoby could use the money and the sun. He ends up in the Tampa/St. Pete area, cruising neon gyms in a rented Caddy. It could be worse. His hotel room's fine (until the first dead body shows up), most of the local bars stock Rolling Rock, and a young female cop falls for the crusty gumshoe. But the missing woman doesn't seem likely to turn up, and the postcard photographer, who isn't initially keen on talking to Miles, is soon riddled with bullets and talking to no one. Mob types arrive, a sensual older woman bodybuilder fancies herself Jacoby's godmother, and the husband's secret profession, not to mention his wife's sudden departure, begins to smell strongly of drugs and drug dealing. Miles has impeccable taste in beer and country music, and his creator dusts off a neat gimmick near the end as two characters from John Lutz's Florida-based mysteries ( Heat and Scorcher ) make brief appearances. Randisi's prose isn't especially stylish, and a slew of authors have brought out the heat-crazed Florida ambiance more tellingly, but Jacoby really is a pleasure, missing precious few chances to crack wise. (May)