"The Blood Red Indian Summer" by David Handler
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, 246 pp., $24.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Here's another fine mystery series that you're probably missing out on, one in which the latest entry gets down-and-dirty, yet still drips drollery as only one of its two main characters, film critic Mitch Berger, can.
Do not try to stump him-- he could have gone head-to-head with Pauline Kael on an all-movie-category edition of "Jeopardy," and she would have landed tails.
Mitch has ditched his TV and newspaper gigs in New York City and settled in a quaint, old, and verily rustic lightkeeper's cottage on Big Sister island in Long Island Sound, just offshore from Dorset, Connecticut.
Having lost his wife, Maisie, two years back, he has regrouped and reclaimed his life on Big Sister, where he still writes, filing pieces to an e-zine begun by one of his former editors.
A major factor in the ongoing construction of Mitch's new life is his paramour, Trooper Desiree "Des" Mitry, who has lost a spouse as well, yet to a rotten marriage and the resulting divorce.
Des couldn't have come from a much different background, being a woman of color (Mitch is Jewish) and a law-enforcement legacy. Her father-- who is convalescing physically, though not mentally, well from bypass surgery-- is on medical leave from the Connecticut State Police, with whom he works as a detective.
Meanwhile, Mitch's parents worked wholeheartedly in inner-city schools. They're up to Dorset as part of the story here, having taken an early condo-retirement to Vero Beach, Florida. They're planning to meet Des first the time.
The main event, however, is transpiring out on Turkey Hill Road, in three neighboring manses.
One's a sort-of Grey Gardens, falling down around its elderly occupants and their cats. Nevertheless, one of Mitch's young friends, an art student, is renting a room.
The place is such a mess that the owners don't care much where she flings her paint.
Then there's the mega-car-dealership tycoon whose son isn't interested in the faltering business, and whose trophy wife is no longer interested in him, if she ever much was.
Betwixt and between are the newest neighbors: An NFL superstar known as Da Beast, his expectant young wife, and a coterie of resident family members and hangers-on.
Da Beast has attracted all sorts of media attention for his volatile temper and less-than-wholesome lifestyle, which he's attempting to clean up by escaping the bright lights of the big city for gated seclusion in a supposedly more private setting.
However, the bright lights have simply trailed Da Beast to his new lair.
Author David Handler stocks these three houses with enough secrets to juice up several books. This eighth Berger and Mitry mystery proves especially noteworthy in the character and dialogue departments as well as for its plot-- a fast-paced novel with the entertainment dial turned up to "high."
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