Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Steve Hockensmith (with Lisa Falco), Give the Devil His Due

Steve Hockensmith (with Lisa Falco), Give the Devil His Due
Midnight Ink; First Edition, © 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0738742243

In the first book in this series (The White Magic Five and Dime, 2015), Alanis McLachlan has moved to Berdache, Arizona upon inheriting her mother’s new age store, The White Magic Five and Dime.  (Along with the shop, she inherits her half-sister Clarice.)  Unfortunately, her mother was a con artist, and Alanis was—before she broke away—an apprentice con artist.  Her mother has been murdered, and now the store (along with a fair amount of undeclared cash) is hers.  She decides to take on the store and try to make amends for the years of deception.  And in the process learns enough about Tarot to help keep the store afloat without fleecing the customers.

Berdache is, according to Alanis, a “Sedona light,” new-agey, but not thriving.  And in the first book, and in the second (Fool Me Once), Alanis has to think fast and work hard to solve some mysteries.

And, in Give the Devil His Due, the devil—her mother’s partner in con, Biddle (no first name that I can remember) shows up; Alanis had thought him long since dead.  (I’m pretty sure “Biddle” is the Devil referred to in the title.)  Things rapidly get weird.  An older man enters the store and asks to use the john…and disappears.  Another man, whom Alanis immediately pegs as some king of cop wanders into the store.  So she uses a ruse to get Clarice (and her girlfriend CeeCee) out of the store so she can give the guy a Tarot reading.

The weirdness expands to involve a German billionaire, a reporter, a couple of older former mob guys, a senior-citizen female professional killer, a local crook (GW) who would like to get closer to Alanis, and a stolen (in 1991) Van Gogh.

Large chunks of the plot are fairly far-fetched, but the characters are intriguing, the dialogue is smart, and the story moves quite quickly along.  And the resolution, if somewhat far-fetched, is handled very well.

I do have one reservation about the plot hook here—the stolen Van Gogh—a reservation I have in a lot of mysteries in which a valuable and important painting is at the core of the plot.  The people involves, both the bad guys and the good guys, too often seem to treat the multi-million work of art in ways that seem highly likely to cause serious damage to it.  And, in my opinion, it happens here.  (Also, the value of the painting is given as $2.5 million, which might have been plausible several decades ago, but now?  Eh, not so much.)

It’s not clear whether Biddle will return in the next outing (but we can hope).  I enjoyed the book quite a lot, reading it in one big gulp (of about 4 hours).  And I hope the series continues.

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