Monday, April 25, 2011
Tina's Review of Douglas Corleone's NIGHT ON FIRE
The beach read — it’s a genre unto itself. For me, such a book must be exotic, intriguing, and smart, with real dilemmas and high stakes. I prefer mysteries, especially those with elements of romance and humor, not madcap, just funny like life is funny, in that you-either-gotta-laugh-or-cry way. And I like characters that I can care about, people who are frustrating and decent in equal measure, people who try and want and fail and try again.
Bonus points if the book has an actual beach in it.
I am delighted to report that Douglas Corleone’s NIGHT ON FIRE qualifies on all counts. It’s the second in this series featuring defense attorney Kevin Corvelli, a former New Yorker who does what a lot of us dream about — he moves his practice to Hawaii. Of course he does it to escape a lot of unwanted attention and personal tragedy. Of course all the trouble follows him right into paradise.
In NIGHT ON FIRE, this particular trouble comes in the form of a dangerously seductive woman who might or might not be a murdering arsonist. Kevin knows better than to get involved . . . but I’m giving nothing away to let you know that he gets involved anyway, and not just professionally either. Soon he’s over his head — woman troubles, kid troubles, co-worker troubles, client troubles, somebody-trying-to-kill-him troubles. It’s hot in Hawaii, and getting hotter.
The plot ricochets from crime to crime and criminal to criminal (including one of the creepiest firebugs I’ve ever met — I’m getting the heebie-jeebies thinking about him). Arson, murder, theft, adultery — every flavor of vice, and every one of the seven deadly sins. It’s a roller coaster ride with fireworks and the ever-present possibility of a loose rail, so be warned. The atmosphere is flavored with a tourist’s dream of Hawaii, but leavened with a resident’s knowledge of its mundane realities from the weather patterns to the traffic annoyances. The supporting cast is strong — three dimensional and free from the annoying quirkiness that often substitutes for characterization in some crime fiction. Corleone doesn’t just assemble a bag of personality eccentricities and call it a character. His people are fully realized, not just plot points. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Turi, Corvelli’s happy-go-lucky small-time drug dealer client. The scenes with him in it felt like eavesdropping.
But the main reason I enjoyed this book so much is the main character, Kevin Corvelli. He’s the kind of guy I want really bad to dislike — bigheaded, reckless, a money-where-his-mouth-is hotshot — but because of his immense charm and often painful awareness of his own flaws, I can’t resist him. In this book we get to see his decent and caring side too (even if it’s a reluctant and grumpy decency). I’ve read in interviews that Corleone has woven a lot of himself in his fictional protagonist, supersizing his own qualities for the story’s sake. If that’s the case, then I hope Corleone’s life continues to give him inspiration for Kevin’s adventures. They make an excellent team.
Grab some sunscreen, mix up some mai tais, and pick up NIGHT ON FIRE. Plan on diving in and staying a while. It’s fast-paced, sharply plotted, smart but not smarty-pants, and there’s real heart at the center. I’m looking forward to my next outing in Kevin Corvelli’s Hawaii.
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DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.