It's a dubious proposition from the outset, destined to lead to trouble: Chloe Robinette, a high-end former Detroit call girl, asks her lingerie model roommate, Kelly Barr, to help her entertain a wealthy octogenarian trial lawyer named Anthony Paradiso. By "entertain," she means donning a cheerleader's skimpy skirt, but going topless, and doing rah-rah routines beside a TV set while Paradiso--"Mr. Paradise"--watches videotaped football games. A bit kinky for Kelly's taste, but she finally goes along--only to be caught in the middle of a contract hit on Paradiso and Chloe. Rather than tell what little she knows of these crimes, Kelly buys into a scheme, concocted by Paradiso's right-hand man, Montez Taylor, that could lead to a huge payoff from the lawyer's estate. But only if the 27-year-old Kelly can convincingly assume Chloe's identity ...
Elmore Leonard, who's made his career writing about not-too-bright bad guys, fills Mr. Paradise with several memorable specimens of that breed. In addition to Montez, who'd resented his politically incorrect boss for cutting him out of his will, there's also a bottom-feeding defense attorney, Avern Cohn, who runs a murder-for-hire operation on the side, and his well-armed employees of the month, "tough monkeys" Carl Fontana and Arthur Krupa. Less credibly and entertainingly crafted is Frank Delsa, the widowed homicide detective whose hunt for Paradiso's killers is complicated by his attraction to the curvilinear Kelly. This romantic subplot is overly predictable and deflates early expectations that the cunning young model is playing some deeper game here, working an angle that neither Delsa nor Montez anticipates.
After penning a string of character-propelled novels set in Florida (including Glitz, Out of Sight, and the particularly winning La Brava), it's good to see Leonard exploiting the Detroit backdrop again, as he did so expertly in a few of his earlier successes (City Primeval and Killshot, for instance). Yet while Mr. Paradise is rich with comic dialogue and cop-shop color, it never goes beyond the expectations of a Leonard work. This author is too good not to take more chances. --J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Fifteen years after his last Detroit novel, Killshot, Leonard (whose most recent effort was Tishomingo Blues) returns to Motor City for another exemplary crime thriller. Chloe Robinette, an escort, is on a $5,000 monthly retainer from wealthy, retired octogenarian lawyer Anthony Paradiso; her duties include dancing topless in a cheerleader's outfit for him as he watches videos of old University of Michigan football games. On a night she persuades her roommate, Kelly Barr, a Victoria's Secret model, to join her in the dancing, Chloe and Paradiso, aka Mr. Paradise, are shot dead in Paradiso's mansion by two middle-aged white thugs. The hit has been set up by Paradiso's right-hand man, Montez Taylor, who's angry at Paradiso for cutting him out of his will; Montez then asks the shocked Kelly to impersonate Chloe in order to scam valuables from Paradiso's safe deposit box, to which Chloe had a key. Enter Frank Delsa, a Detroit homicide cop, who smells a rat and falls for Kelly while sorting matters out. She falls for him, too, but will the hit men and/or Montez take her out, since she can identify them as conspirators? Like the best crime thrillers-which means like most of Leonard's work-this novel is character-driven, and in its wonderfully rich, authentically human cast the story finds its surprises. The prose, as expected from Leonard, is perfect-in 304 pages, there's not a word that doesn't belong exactly where he's placed it. Brilliantly constructed, wise and tough, this book, like so many recent Leonards, offers a master class in how to write a novel.
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