Just when things seem to be going relatively well for recovering addict, ex-prostitute, ex-con, and whiz-bang auto-mechanic-cum-limo-service-magnate Miranda "Munch" Mancini and her 6-year-old adopted daughter, Asia, she encounters a world of good-intentioned hurt from an old druggie friend, Ellen. Fresh out of prison and just 16 days sober, Ellen is determined to get her life back on track. When things on the outside don't go according to plan, she turns to Munch, who does the right thing by offering Ellen a couch to sleep on and a part-time job as a limo driver. Before you can say "That Ellen, she's going to be trouble," that Ellen becomes trouble when she drives Victor, a Romanian diplomat with a taste for the seedier side of Western life, and Raleigh, a misogynistic and unscrupulous CIA agent, to Tijuana. And, naturally, she doesn't tell Munch.
Serial murder, mayhem, and numerous foreign and domestic intrigues follow in Unwanted Company, ex-mechanic Barbara Seranella's fast-paced third novel. Like No Human Involved and No Offense Intended, it features a cast of well-defined if invariably impaired characters, including Munch's refreshingly normal--that is to say, normally troubled without being psychologically tortured--pal Detective Mace St. John and his partner, the self-doubting Detective Cassiletti. Stylish, spare, and finely tuned, Unwanted Company is an early entry in what promises to be a long and happy run for Barbara Seranella (certainly) and Munch Mancini (please). --Michael Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Hanging on to a marginal existence by her fingernails, ex-addict Miranda "Munch" Mancini supplements her income as a Los Angeles auto mechanic by scrupulously running her own limo service--consisting of one sparkling Cadillac. But as this energetic novel rapidly shows, Munch takes on more than she bargained for when she accepts unscrupulous federal agent Raleigh Ward; his charge, sleazy Romanian diplomat Victor Draicu; and two beauteous female friends as week-long customers. It's 1984, the Olympics are coming to Los Angeles and the Eastern Bloc is to be pampered. But a serial killer is loose, viciously stabbing young women, and Munch gets involved in that nightmare when the two women last seen in her limo apparently become the murderer's latest victims. Matters complicate when Munch's reckless friend Ellen, just released from jail, takes Victor and Raleigh (and the limo) to Tijuana, only to see her two passengers actively involved in a triple homicide. Could either Raleigh or Victor--busy with their own highly illegal scam involving contraband weapons--be the serial killer? Unfortunately, this third in the Munch series (after No Offense Intended) shows its hand far too soon, yet its plot is still confusing. Yet despite these flaws and a pat ending, the novel's dizzying pace, married to Seranella's incisive portraits of flawed, vulnerable characters, makes for a satisfying novel. Agent, Sandy Dijkstra. (Feb.)
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