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Double Shot (Lew Fonesca) by Stuart M. Kaminsky
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Don Metzler
Forge Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765319326
Date: 14 September 2010 List Price $19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Zembinsky's face was inches from Lieberman's. Zembinsky smelled surprisingly clean, and his breath smelled like mint mouthwash.

"Cop or no cop," he whispered, "there's just you and me here, and I'm going through the door. You move over, or I put you down. Your word against mine. Maybe I'll just bite your fucking nose off."

They were too close together for the young man to see the punch coming. Lieberman's right hand shot out straight, short, and hard to Zembinsky's chest. Zembinsky staggered back, mouth open, gasping for breath, holding his chest. He was about to fall to the floor when he backed against the bed and sat.

Zembinsky tried to talk. Nothing came out. He put his hands on the bed to steady himself, his eyes on the old cop who had done this to him.

Abe Lieberman, the aging, frail-looking Chicago police detective, continues to take suspects by surprise in Not Quite Kosher, one of two full length novels that comprise this volume. The second novel that is included here is Bright Futures, which is the final entry in Stuart Kaminsky's Lew Fonesca series.

In Not Quite Kosher, Lieberman and his long-time partner, Bill Hanrahan, must deal simultaneously with two separate and unrelated crimes: the murder of a local businessman who had recently had a run-in with a gang of small-time hoods, and a jewelry store hold-up gone wrong, in which one of the robbers inadvertently shoots and kills the proprietor. At the same time, recovering alcoholic Hanrahan is planning his marriage to Iris Chen. Iris's father, in time-honored Chinese tradition, had previously promised Iris to one Mr. Woo, who is a prominent figure in the Chicago underworld. Mr. Woo is not at all pleased at being rebuffed by Iris, nor is he pleased by Hanrahan's rival status, and he is staunchly opposed to their union. More importantly, he is not incapable of doing something to prevent it.

So while Lieberman and Hanrahan wade into the investigations of two deadly crimes, they must also be alert for any untoward attention from Mr. Woo's henchmen.

In Bright Futures, the second novel included in this volume, process server Lew Fonesca is approached by two teenagers, sons of the wealthy elite in Sarasota, Florida, who ask him to prove that a friend of theirs has been wrongly accused in a murder case. While pointing out that he is not a licensed private investigator, Fonesca reluctantly agrees to look into the case.

Lew Fonesca is possibly the most fascinating character that emerged from the imagination of the late Stuart Kaminsky. Fonesca is deeply depressed, his depression stemming from the hit-and-run death of his wife a few years earlier in Chicago. Since that incident, Fonesca has spent a large portion of his time huddled in the darkness in the back room of his spartan Sarasota office, watching videotapes of old black-and-white movies. He only works as much as he absolutely must in order to pay his few bills. But while Lew's intention has been to live the life of a recluse, he has somehow over the last several years gathered about himself a dedicated circle of friends and supporters. Among these are 70-year-old Ames McKinney, who with his crusty demeanor, and his full-length duster that he uses to conceal an array of deadly weapons, comes across as a relic of the wild west. There is Ann Hurwitz, a therapist who has taken Fonesca on as a sort of charity case, hoping to gradually coax him out of his fiercely defended depression. And there is Sally Porovsky, divorced social worker, whom Fonesca occasionally meets for pizza and beer, although he steadfastly refuses to think of her as a girlfriend.

But the oddest of Fonesca's circle of acquaintances is Victor Woo, the man who eventually confessed to having inadvertently run down Fonesca's wife several years earlier in Chicago. Panicked, he had fled the scene of the accident, but with time his sense of guilt has overwhelmed him. He has followed Lew to Sarasota, and now sleeps on the floor of Fonesca's outer office -- waiting, apparently, for any chance to make atonement for his horrendous crime.

Stuart Kaminsky's novels represent some of the finest crime fiction that has been written over the last three decades. His story lines are intriguing; his dialogue is flawlessly realistic, frequently tinged with a healthy dose of irony. His characters are endearing and unforgettable. Abe Lieberman and Lew Fonesca, featured in the Double Shot volume, are two of the best examples of Kaminsky's recurring characters. But the reader who picks up this book as an introduction to Stuart Kaminsky's writings will want to be reminded that there exist two additional series that will give equal reading enjoyment: the Toby Peters series and the Inspector Rostnikov series. Double Shot presents, in one volume, two absorbing and fascinating novels. But in this reviewer's opinion, everything that Stuart Kaminsky wrote during his lifetime is absorbing and fascinating. His stories are colored with subtle but thought-provoking glimpses into the human condition. While these insights are occasionally underhanded (most often in a humorous way) they are never heavy-handed. It's all great reading, and great entertainment.

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