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Curse of the Jade Lily (Mac McKenzie) by David Housewright
Cover Artist: Photo: Jason's Travel Photography / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312642310
Date: 05 June 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Vincent Donnatucci of the Midwest Farmers Insurance Group hires PI Rushmore McKenzie to perform a buy back. Thieves have stolen the infamous Jade Lilly from the City of Lakes Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (The Jade Lilly has been rumored to have killed its owners ever since its creation over two-hundred years ago.) The museum has agreed to buy back this cursed sculpture from the thieves. McKenzie will deliver the money to the artnappers and retrieve the Jade Lilly. Unfortunately, other criminals want it and the buy back turns bloody.

Trouble has a way of finding Rushmore McKenzie in David Housewright's fun noir, Curse of the Jade Lilly. A strange assortment of quirky characters; a cold, winter setting; plenty of murders and attempted murders; a fiery explosion; and an Agatha Christie-like denouement make this novel a fast-paced, must-read mystery for the summer. While his long-time squeeze, Nina Truhler, is dealing with a reality show, the Ghost Show, at her supposedly haunted nightclub, McKenzie finds himself trudging through falling snow, dead bodies, and criminals who all want the Jade Lilly.

The attractive, macho Rush McKenzie (who keeps insisting he needs to workout more at the gym) finds himself surrounded by beautiful women, some good, but most are bad. One of them, a beautiful blond thief with a heavenly body, is Heavenly Petryk. She and McKenzie share history; Nina understandably hates her. Another beauty is a reporter, Kelly Bressandes, who hounds McKenzie for an exclusive interview. There are other wicked ladies but I won't mention them. The thieves choose McKenzie to perform the buy back because he has a reputation of being reliable, likeable and honest.

Rushmore McKenzie is also soft-hearted. For example, he keeps his Christmas lights burning well into January to honor the tradition started by his dead mom and continued by his father who is now also deceased. I keep my Christmas tree shining brightly until after St. Valentine's Day. However, it's not a tradition; I'm just too lazy to take it down.

A crippled ticket scalper, Chopper, loans McKenzie the use of his bodyguard, Herzog, a large, Ving Rhames look alike who hates cops. Together, this oddball pair travels about the twin cities, endeavoring to learn the identities of the artnappers while providing ghetto-style comic relief. The tension mounts when a racist calls Herzog the N-Word and bodies go flying. As I stated before, this complex novel, with subplots aplenty, has a unique assortment of characters and everyone is guilty of something. It is up to McKenzie to straighten up this accursed, soap opera-like noir.

I enjoyed Curse of the Jade Lilly even more so than Housewright's previous novel, Highway 61, which was a wild ride unto itself. I think it was the cold setting, zany characters and Agatha Christie-like denouement that sent Curse of the Jade Lilly over the top for me. As for the curse, I don't believe in evil, possessed objects. I only believe in the curses that are created when greedy men lust after them. However, the reader will feel cursed, or cheated, if he/she doesn't read this artful noir.

If stolen art appeals to you, then I highly recommend the following novels: Carson Morton's historical Stealing Mona Lisa , Brian M. Wiprud's ultraviolent, comedic Buy Back and S.J. Rozan's highly political Ghost Hero. All of them have been published by Minotaur.

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