Are you looking for the right book during the transition from summer into fall? Look no further: with its page-turning plot and crisp autumn setting, Erica Wright’s The Granite Moth* is the book for you.
On Halloween night, private investigator Kathleen Stone—Kat, or Kate, Katya, Kathy, Keith, Kennedy, or another alias, depending on who’s asking—is waiting on a friend and former colleague to drop off some leads that could help her build a case against her nemesis, cartel boss Salvatore Magrelli. Ever since she left undercover work for the NYPD, she’s felt much more comfortable in disguise, and this night is no exception, so she’s surprised when her friend Dolly, the star of the Pink Parrot’s famous drag show, recognizes her from his position on the club’s float.
Minutes later, the float explodes, and Kat finds herself juggling two cases at once as she’s pulled into investigating the incident by Big Mamma, the club’s owner, who’s convinced it’s no accident. When Kat infiltrates the Skyview, a tony private club run by Magrelli’s wife, the murder of an employee makes her think that the two cases are possibly connected—as hate crimes.
What I liked best about The Granite Moth, in no particular order:
- The plot: It’s full of twists and turns, but it’s not convoluted, and it doesn’t rely on sexual assault as a plot point or character motivation (hallelujah!). Also, until now I’d never read a detective novel with (potential) hate crimes as a focus. Timely, unfortunately.
- The secondary characters: Dolly and his friends at the Pink Parrot are fully differentiated and fleshed out, as is Kat’s former colleague and friend Ellis, an NYPD detective. The only character I had a hard time understanding was Meeza, Kat’s assistant; it wasn’t clear why a smart, capable woman is interested in V.P., a small-time criminal.
- Kat: Kat is smart and brave, though scarred by her work undercover and reasonably worried about the dangerous people crossing her path–a far cry from the usual marks she pursues. She doesn’t carry a gun, which makes her resourceful; scenes have more room to breathe since violence isn’t always imminent. Disguise is her weapon of choice, but she also listens carefully and carries bolt cutters. Plus, I enjoyed Kat’s sense of humor (wry, as befits a PI).
- The writing: Ms. Wright’s prose doesn’t call attention to itself, which (for me, anyway) is ideal in genre fiction, but it certainly has some lovely moments, like this image: “Ellis stopped abruptly and turned me to face him. He ducked down until he was peering into my eyes with his translucent one. I could see myself in his pupils, the smallest nesting doll in the set, the one with nothing inside.”
If you, like me, aren’t a connoisseur of crime fiction but like to sample the genre from time to time, I’d happily recommend The Granite Moth.
*I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.