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The Lavender Lane Lothario (Berger and Mitry) by David Handler
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250076113
Date: 23 February 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Dorset, Connecticut, is a wealthy coastal village with an eyesore bar, The Pit--a popular beach hangout for rednecks on warm summer nights. An act of arson burns the old wooden structure to the ground. Resident Trooper Master Sergeant Des Mitry discovers a manís charred corpse inside. With the help of her boyfriend, popular film critic Mitch Berger, she learns there are a multitude of suspects who wanted to murder the victim, a supposedly quiet, peaceful man. In actuality, he was a shrewd city official by day and a secret womanizer by night; he had made numerous enemies. Des must find out who slew the Lavender Lane Lothario before there is another corpse.

David Handler's The Lavender Lane Lothario (following The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb and The Snow White Christmas Cookie) is a superb mystery in his Mitch Berger and Des Mitry series. Who killed the Lavender Lane Lothario? This novel emphasizes that appearances can be deceiving and we never really know someone. At first, the victim appeared to be a loving, kind, gentle man who enjoyed helping others in need. Well, the more I learned about this man the more I grew to detest him. He used and manipulated many women; each was led to believe that she was the only one in his life. I began to feel gladness for his death and feel sorrow for the killer.

This novel is not a violent, high body count, action packed thriller with cutting edge technology. It mostly contains a lot of human drama. A lot of village gossip. There may not be any depictions of explicit sex but there are many discussions concerning sex. The reader might believe that Dorset is an adulterous village. The victim was having secret affairs with numerous women of all ages and economic and social backgrounds. I don't see how he had time to juggle so many women; I would be exhausted all the time. Also, as a city official, he'd angered a lot of businessmen, one of which could also be married to a woman who was having an affair with the Lavender Lane Lothario.

Excellent characterization has always been this series' hallmark. Dorset's populace is unique, bizarre and sometimes disturbing. Des' friends on the Major Crime Squad can also be described using the same terms. I was excited to see the return of Lieutenant Yolie Snipes, a physically imposing, brutish woman who is described as a "fierce half-black, half-Cuban Rottweiler with jugs". Yolie's partner is the short, petite Sergeant Toni Tedone of the Waterbury Mafia Tedones; she hasn't told her family she is marrying her lesbian lover. Des' enormous father, Buck Mitry (a.k.a. The Deacon), makes an appearance in order to give her some startling news. On the novel's last page, Des has a surprise visitor at her front door who may soon be disrupting everyone's happiness.

The Lavender Lane Lothario is rich with medical and police procedures. It is also rich with humor. My favorite scene is when one of Dorset's many womanizers (they are as plentiful as cockroaches) meets Yolie for the first time:

"Nice to meet you, Lieutenant," he said, his eyes treating Yolie to a highly appreciative undressing. Thorough, too. The man not only helped her off with her panties, he folded them neatly for her. "You have some questions for me?"
I feared that when David Handler began publishing the Benji Golden series (Runaway Man and Phantom Angel) that the Berger and Mitry series was soon ending. The Lavender Lane Lothario is proof that it remains strong; in fact, it is getting better. On the crazy, outlandish scale, it is definitely a ten.

As I said before, the mystery is superb; I didn't have a clue to the killer's identity until the novel's end when he/she walks into the dark auxiliary conference room and the lights turn on. If I had read the alibies more carefully, I would've realized when a suspect was lying to cover his/her tracks. Berger and Mitry are one of the oddest, most unique sleuthing teams. I can't wait for their next adventure.

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