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Bright Futures: A Lew Fonesca Mystery by Stuart M. Kaminsky
Cover Artist: Jupiter Images
Review by Don Metzler
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318282
Date: 06 January 2009 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The windshield exploded. Glass shot toward Lew's face. Augustine lost control. The car spun around three times, skidded onto the freshly cut lawn of a large ranch-style house and came to a stop against a row of trimmed bushes.

Lew looked at Augustine. He was silent. Blood dripped like a red tear from the corner of his right eye and made its way down his nose.

Someone is trying to kill Lew Fonesca. Lew is pretty sure he knows why. What he doesn't know is who.

Philip Horvecki, a local Sarasota businessman and gadfly, has been brutally beaten to death in his home. High school student Ronnie Gerall was found standing over the corpse, blood on his hands. Three different people want to hire Fonesca to find evidence that Ronnie did not commit the murder. Initially Lew is indifferent to the case, and tries to turn down all three would-be clients. But when it becomes apparent that someone is trying to scare him away from the case by taking potshots at him, that's when Lew gets interested. Especially when he begins to suspect that the person who is doing the shooting may be one of the people who hired him!

So with the help of his usual sidekick, Ames McKinney, Lew sets out to discover who murdered Philip Horvecki. Not a pleasant task, because the first thing he learns is that Horvecki was a sexual predator who probably deserved to die, and who undoubtedly had more enemies than Carter has little pills.

Once again Stuart Kaminsky takes us into the dark world of Lew Fonesca. Fonesca fled Chicago several years earlier, despondent after his wife was killed in a hit and run accident. With no plan or destination in mind, he had happened to be in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen in Sarasota, Florida, when his old car finally broke down. So that is where he settled. He rented a small office behind the Dairy Queen and slept in the back room. He began to earn a meager living by serving subpoenas for local law firms. In his spare time, he would sit alone in the dark and watch videotapes of black and white movies from the 1940s and 50s.

Now the Dairy Queen has been torn down, and the wrecking ball is about to fall on Fonesca's digs as well. Lew detests change, but this time he has no choice. So he is moving into a larger apartment, and hating every minute of it. And the physical move is not the only change taking place in Lew's life. When his wife died, he had vowed that he would never again allow himself to become close with or care about another human being. The pain is just too great when they pass out of your life. But now he is being forced to come to grips with the fact that, like it or not, he has over the last four years surrounded himself with a small circle of friends whom he is beginning to care deeply about. Lew cherishes his solitude and his carefully nurtured depression, but now he has some decisions to make about his future.

As always, Kaminsky's greatest strengths as a writer are his sardonic humor and his true-to-life characters. Bright Futures scores high marks on both points. We are introduced to characters such as D. Elliot Corkle, an eccentric inventor who always refers to himself in the third person, and who never leaves his house; Blue Berrigan, star of children's television, who is now being blackmailed by someone claiming to have evidence that Berrigan is a child molester; Greg Legerman, a hyperactive teenager who first brings the Horvecki case to Lew; and Jeff Augustine, one-time bit actor who now earns his living as D. Elliot Corkle's strong arm. And the regular cast of the Lew Fonesca novels is also present: Ames McKinney, the tall, silent old cowboy who usually has a firearm of some kind concealed under his long yellow duster; Sally Porovsky, social worker and Lew's quasi-girlfriend; and Ann Hurwitz, Lew's psychologist, who counsels him for the token payment of a coffee and biscotti per session, and ten dollars if Lew happens to have it.

Stuart Kaminsky has become as prolific a writer as the late John D. MacDonald, and is every bit as expert at his craft and every bit as entertaining to read. Kaminsky's earlier series' featuring detectives Toby Peters, Porfiry Rostnikov, and Abe Lieberman were hard to beat. But Bright Futures, the sixth entry in the Lew Fonesca series is as good as anything that came before.

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