Tour’s Books Blog

November 27, 2009

Short Book Review: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception by Nancy Martin

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Pickings have been lean for me on the usual erotic romance ebook sites, so I have a review of a mystery due to be released in 2010.  I did read a couple of erotic romance and I’ll have those reviews up in a few days.  In the meantime, enjoy the weekend designed for over indulgence in food, shopping and football!

  • Title: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception
  • Author: Nancy Martin
  • Type:  Mystery
  • Genre: Amateur sleuth
  • Sub-genre: Ethically challenged heroine
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price: Full novel; to be released Mar 2010 in Hardcover – discount price $16-$17
  • Where Available: All book stores in March 2010
  • FTC Disclosure: ARC acquired through an online book swapping site

Nancy Martin has gained a following for her Blackbird Sisters mysteries set in the upper echelon of Philadelphia’s society’s eccentric denizens with a touch of murder, mayhem and organized crime.  In Our Lady Of Immaculate Deception, Ms Martin starts a new series featuring a lower middle class single mother, architectural salvage business owner, and sometime band singer, Roxy Abruzzo, grand niece of the local mafia don in Pittsburgh.  Roxy might not always be entirely ethical, but she refuses to work for her Uncle Carmine.  Roxy mixes with the upper classes when she takes various pieces from their ruined houses, including Pittsburgh’s local billionaires, the Hyde family.  Julius Hyde calls her to salvage what’s left of the mansion that his infuriated soon to be ex-wife torched.

Roxy and her helper Nooch, an old high school friend and a slow-witted giant she’s feels responsible for thanks to something he did for her 10 years ago, are salvaging what they can from the burned out hulk of the Hyde mansion.  As they’re getting ready to leave. she finds Julius Hyde, eldest son of the Hyde brood, and not a bad guy, peeing in the pool in the garden.   They chat and then he leaves like a man on a mission and Roxy takes the chance to look around.  She spots a great statue covered with vines hidden the overgrown gardens and decides to ‘salvage’ it.  She and Nooch struggle to get it on her truck and head out, never knowing Julius has been murdered.

Julius Hyde manages to get himself shot to death.  Thing is, even though he was eldest son and scion of the richest family in town, he wasn’t content.  His wife Monica turned a blind eye to his running around until he started giving his current girlfriend gifts – really, really expensive gifts.  Monica is anything but the grieving widow and she has an eye for the much younger family attorney, Henry Paxton.  Of course, there’s the small problem of her having burned down the family mansion, missing artwork and her propensity of playing the great charity matron.  Did she give away part of the collection?  And there’s Julius’ next younger brother, the media conglomerate mogul Quentin, who forced Julius from his corporate position so he could play heartless take-over mogul, and youngest brother, Trey, an aging playboy who likes funding underseas treasure hunting with the family money.  And Arden, Quentin’s daughter, an art specialist, who comes back from Europe to help sort out the family’s art collection to see what’s missing.  And Mother Hyde, known as Dodo, wakes up sharp as ever and charges Paxton with making sure all her important art pieces are present and accounted for – or he’ll lose his cushy life style on the family estate.  The piece Dodo’s most concerned about is a statue, one she and her late husband illegally smuggled out of Greece decades ago – now worth $50 million dollars to the right collector that doesn’t care abut pesky things like documentation and provenance.

The complicated tale unfolds with the manipulative Hyde patriarch Dodo, who likes pretends she’s in a coma to avoid dealing with her greedy offspring, pulling the chain of greedy lawyer Henry Paxton who wants to insure he keeps his job, the house on the family estate, and the sheer prestige that his position confers, to get him to make sure her precious statue is safe.  His job is complicated by the gaggle of relatives who believe in better living through chemistry – uppers, downers, cocaine, and anything else – or harbor the burning desire for various kinds of  power, money, and prestige.  And Roxy, the sexy salvage operator who seems to know more than she’ll admit about that damn statue.

Roxy might not be too ethical as salvage yard operator, but she can kick ass and take names – and she knows what gun fire sounds like when she and Paxton get shot at while sitting in the red Mustang that belongs to Julius’ former girlfriend, now hiding in one of Roxy’s investment houses she has yet to renovate.  She also has a daughter who thinks she’s pregnant by the police chief’s feckless son, a grand uncle Carmine who wants to get her into the local ‘family business’ – mob business,  men she’s willing to use for sex and that’s it, and a statue in her fur storage that’s so much trouble she should have left it well enough alone.  But everything changes when her daughter Sage is kidnapped and held for ransom, payment being the statue she took from the Hyde garden.  Now she needs help, and Flynn, Sage’s father, former marine turned master chef, is the one man who would help her bury a body.

Nancy Martin creates some original characters in Our Lady of Immaculate Deception, but she also uses some disposable characters right from central casting.  Roxy is original and well conceived, but not always likable.  The relationship with her daughter Sage and Aunt Loretta is given short shrift and needed more meat to it.   Nooch is interesting, but rather one dimensional.  Aside from Roxy, it’s Julius and the Hyde family that have the feeling of real people.  The lowlifes all around Roxy don’t quite cut it.  Ms Martin just can’t quite carry off the gritty lower classes with authority and realism.  Flynn is just too good to be true.   Even Roxy’s Aunt Loretta is just too TV series.  Shortcomings aside, the books is very readable and has a broader sweep than her Blackbird series and a somewhat longer length.  The  casual flexible morality and ethical ambivalence that permeates the Blackbird books is much more fundamental here because it’s an intrinsic part of Roxy.  Stylistic writing aside, in many ways it reminds me of Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr, or Parnell Hall’s Stanley Hastings with a hefty does of G. A. McKevett.   More than a cozy/amateur sleuth, less than a gritty mystery, Our Lady of Immaculate Deception is a worthy read.

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