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Phantom Angel (A Benji Golden Mystery) by David Handler
Cover Artist: Rob Wood / Wood Ronsaville Harlin, Inc.
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250059734
Date: 10 February 2015 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Manhattan's most boyish PI, Benji Golden, is hired by Broadway's most famous musical producer, Morrie Frankel. The flamboyant, overweight Morrie is up to his neck in financial woes thanks to his latest musical production, Wuthering Heights. A financial backer, known in the business as an "angel", has promised him twelve million dollars. Now this angel, R.J. Farnell, has taken one-hundred grand of Morrie's money and disappeared, leaving him nearly destitute. Benji must find this phantom angel. The only lead he has is a beautiful internet porn star, Jonquil Beausoleil (a.k.a. Boso). Soon afterwards, a major celebrity is gunned down like a dog outside of Bryant Park. Benji is forced to protect Boso from mobsters who also want to rub her out.

Also by David Handler:
Benji Golden Mysteries:
* Runaway Man
* Phantom Angel
Berger and Mitry Mysteries:
* The Shimmering Blond Sister
* The Blood Red Indian Summer
* The Snow White Christmas Cookie
* The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb

David Handler does to Manhattan what Timothy Hallinan does to Hollywood. He makes it sleazy and hilarious. Handler busts your "dreamland bubble" with a sharp pin of reality, especially in his latest installment of the Benji Golden series, Phantom Angel (following the excellent debut of Runaway Man). Benji's latest caper takes him to harried theatrical auditions; slimy directors, producers, and gossip columnists; internet porn websites; and NYPD and FBI offices. Benji meets some extremely strange, unlikable people with some extremely strange names such as Cricket O'Shea, Ira Gottfried, and Matthew Puntigam. Reading Phantom Angel will make you think twice about going into show business. The old adage, "There's a broken heart for every light on Broadway", must be true.

We learn a startling secret about Benji in this novel. I won't reveal it. I will say that Benji recognizes the pain in Boso's eyes and can identify with it. Handler writes about another controversial subject. This one I will discuss. It involves credit card scams and porn websites. After reading Phantom Angel, you will never want to give your credit card number to a porn website. Someone could take that number and quickly max out its credit card while making numerous high-end purchases. Sometimes, when you join a porn website, that website will share your credit card information to numerous other sites. Soon, you belong to many porn websites. A coworker told me this happened to her son except he claims he never joined a porn website. Sure he didnt.

Phantom Angel is a fast-paced read. Mostly because it's a short novel. Seriously, readers will become thoroughly engaged in its intriguing plot because it is rife with bizarre characters and has lots of human drama. Despite their very unreal names, many of the character seem very real. So real that we get caught up in their dilemmas. Despite its sometimes raunchy humor, Phantom Angel will tug at your heart strings. Readers will care about the characters and their predicaments. There is a lot of betrayal and deceit in the story; we have all been hurt by people we trusted and thought were our friends. I feel very bad for those characters whose lives have spiraled downward into oblivion.

The novel's ending was very emotional. It leaves the reader with hope that there is some goodness among all the trash heaps of humanity. I'm looking forward to David Handler's next installment of the Benji Golden series and am hoping the short, boyish PI will find true love.

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