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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.

A Trouble of Fools

A Trouble of Fools - Linda Barnes Pleasant, but so unmemorable that I'm having trouble even conjuring the interest to write a review. The sort of book that doesn't inspire enough glorious frustration to write a rant, nor the adoration to pen a slavering paean to its greatness.

Carlotta Carlyle, the story's protagonist, is a former cab driver and former cop, now private investigator. She's single and has the requisite cat, T.C. And T.C., being a thoroughly modern cat, gets mail.

When the story begins, Carlotta is eyeing a letter that claims T.C. is the winner of 20-thousand dollars. Because the story details have already been replaced with details from another novel, I can't remember if the letter is from a condo company, and collecting the money requires listening to a sales pitch, or whether there are no strings attached at all. Either way, to claim the 20K, Carlotta and her "husband," T.C., need to collect the money in person. A problem since T.C. isn't precisely a person.

Right off the bat, I'm wondering how smart woman could ever think this was legitimate. I mean, seriously? Anyway, Carlotta is on the hunt for a human stand-in for T.C.

Meanwhile, an elderly lady, Margaret Devens, appears on her doorstep, wanting to hire Carlotta to find her missing brother, Eugene. Unfortunately, Granny is less than forthcoming with the truth about her brother, and pretty much expects Carlotta to located him out of thin air.

I think I'm supposed to find Margaret endearing because she's old. Mostly, I found her prickly, like a cactus, but without the occasional burst of pretty flowers. Consequently, the fate of Margaret's brother didn't exactly keep me up nights worrying. Or reading this book. (A kind of stupid obstinacy kept me reading.)

Eugene works for a cab company, the same outfit that once employed Carlotta. And pretty soon, Carlotta's back driving a cab, following Eugene's compatriots around the streets of Boston, seeking clues to Eugene's disappearance. Carlotta also reacquaints herself with Mooney, a police detective, and tries to enlist him to play the part of T.C. The obligatory (tepid) love interest is provided by Carlotta's ex-boyfriend, Sam, who owns the cab company.

Stuff happens, and the above plot threads - cab company, local police department, T.C.'s prize money - are bound together reasonably well with an IRA money-making scheme (as in Irish Republican Army, not retirement - the novel was first published in the 80s).

The pace was just too meandering, and Carlotta, despite the occasional witty insight, felt like just about every other young, single sleuth in the genre. I got sort of annoyed with her at the end when she goes all schmopey over the death of the antagonist. (She shows up at the funeral, with flowers.) The guy is a drug dealer, precisely the kind of person who endangers the life of Paulina, her little sister/surrogate daughter. Maybe the point was to show that Carlotta was kind-hearted, but honestly, all it did was make her look like an ass.

Yeah, a boring review for an uninspiring book. This is the start of a series that spawned many more books, so evidently the character and setting works for other readers.