Can it possibly be polite to laugh out loud when there are brutal murders happening left and right? Laura DiSilverio puts politeness to the test with Swift Edge, the second mayhem-filled installment in her Swift Investigations series. Tough-as-nails Charlotte “Charlie” Swift of Swift Justice returns, this time with Gigi Goldman, the hapless ex-wife of Charlie’s deadbeat former partner, firmly ensconced in the agency bearing Charlie’s name. Now, Gigi’s spoiled daughter, Kendall, is helping out at the agency over Christmas break, burning up coffee pots, painting her nails, and generally making a nuisance of herself, as Charlie and Gigi take on not one, but two, missing persons cases.
Dara Peterson, pair skater extraordinaire, glides into Charlie’s office wearing cozy Uggs and an I’m-a-big-deal attitude to hire Charlie to find her skating partner, Dmitri Fane. The police won’t help her because handsome, complicated Dmitri has pulled disappearing acts before, but Olympic-qualifying competitions are coming up, and he must be found. Missing person number two is a teenager named Kungfu. Charlie’s friend and neighbor, Dan Allgood, an Episcopal priest, had hired the at-risk runaway to work at the church, and is worried because Kungfu has vanished with out a word.
Dmitri may be a dream on the ice, but finding him takes the danger-prone Charlie to all the right places at the wrong times. Within the pages of Swift Edge, she’s whacked on the head, blown up, shot, Tasered, hit, and nearly run over by a car, and suffers one heck of a hangover. But Charlie, who worked for seven years as an Air Force investigator, always—with the help of two or three Pepsis—bounces right back into the game. She’s tough. Perhaps even a little too tough for the liking of two important men in her life: Detective Connor Montgomery, who thrills her, but has an unsettling, rather juvenile habit of cornering her in elevators and remote places, and Dan, who, if one reads between the lines, is obviously a patient lover-in-waiting.
Though the novel bears her name, Charlie Swift isn’t the only star of Swift Edge. DiSilverio’s crisp, clean prose illustrates even her lesser characters as vivid portraits, not stereotypes. Fiona Campbell, Dmitri’s best friend, has the brooding charm of a Kristen Stewart; Dmitri’s mother is a well-heeled diva, with all the warmth of a porcelain python. Even Sadie, the ferret, and her downstairs neighbor, Claudine, are characters one wouldn’t mind getting to know better. And it’s not Charlie, but Gigi, who gets all the best, sweetly comic bits. (Gigi’s chapters are written in a close third person, whereas Charlie’s are in first. It seems a disservice, and makes one worry for Gigi’s series longevity.) Gigi wrecks her fancy clothes serving process papers, buys outlandish surveillance gadgets off of the internet, suffers endless hot flashes, and is always ready to lob one of her designer sling-backs at the bad guy (or woman). She’s sunny, trusting, warm, and drives Charlie crazy.
[Gigi’s] voice dropped to a whisper. “Ant-cay alk-tay ow-nay.”
“What?” I stared at my cell, thinking something had interfered with the connection.
“Ig-pay atin-lay,” she said, still whispering.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Gigi! If you’re worried about someone—Irena or the kids—listening in, got to another room.”
I heard the muffled sounds of a brief conversation and some footsteps before Gigi came back on the line. “Irena was right there,” she said. “I figured that someone born in Russia wouldn’t speak Pig Latin. I’m outside now.”
DiSilverio ties the two missing persons cases together in elegant fashion, despite the constant, dangerous interference of Gigi’s starstruck daughter, Kendall. While readers may find the result of Dmitri’s case as disturbing as the bruised and battered Charlie herself finds it, they should also be prepared for a wickedly fun read.
Laura Benedict’s latest book is Surreal South ’11: an Anthology of Short Fiction. Her next dark suspense novel, The Devil’s Oven: An Appalachian Horror, will be available this winter. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com, or at her blog, Notes From the Handbasket.