- File Size: 821 KB
- Print Length: 157 pages
- Publisher: St. Austin's Press (December 20, 2013)
- Publication Date: December 20, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007HB8MS2
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,895 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$9.99|
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CAPRIATI'S BLOOD (ALTON RHODE MYSTERIES Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Rhode operates in Staten Island, a borough of New York that's rarely the setting for books of any sort, and he's managed to make the acquaintance of about everyone important on both sides of the law on the island. Rhode lands a very familiar type of case, finding the long missing ex-boyfriend of an attractive actress named Ellen James, with a most unexpected twist. Ellen has a daughter by the titular Mr. Capriati, who ran out on her 14 years earlier, and their daughter has cancer. Further, Capriati may well be the only matching bone marrow donor they can locate in time. Since Capriati went to college on Staten Island, Ellen decides to hire a local PI to dig into his background.
Needless to say, there's more to the case than first meets the eye. It seems that Capriati was friends in college with the man who's now the head of the local Italian mob and that Capriati's disappearance may have a mob connection. And, not surprisingly the investigation results in attacks on Rhode and a dead body turning up. However, despite the familiar elements, the solution to the mystery is quite unusual, involving a twist that I both completely didn’t see coming and that I can’t recall having seen before. Plus, Rhode proves to be a shrewd, methodical investigator and not merely someone who stumbles around for a few chapters until the case solves itself.
“Capriati’s Blood” offers some other reading pleasures as well. Author De Maria is a former journalist who got his start on a Staten Island newspaper (his first assignment, at the local courthouse, wound up with him meeting Roy Cohn and John Gotti), and the author’s knowledge of the borough shows up in some highly entertaining descriptions in the book. I especially enjoyed the scenes set in a local pub that the local cops and mobsters both frequented, often literally bumping into each other. Also, as befits a wise-cracking private eye, the author gives character Rhode a lot of clever quips and putdowns.
Of course, those quips and putdowns come at the expense of a couple of highly convenient foils. De Maria goes out of his way to create a couple of obnoxious jerks, a college professor and a medical bureaucrat, whose only function in the book seems to be to serve as Rhode’s verbal punching bags. Those two buffoons are merely part of a larger pattern in the book in which situations resolve themselves in highly unlikely and even more highly convenient manners for Rhode. In particular, the manner in which Rhode gets through his final showdown with the book’s villain is the literary equivalent of air escaping a leaking balloon.
Overall, the clever central mystery, the wit, and the evocative descriptions all through the book make “Capriati’s Blood” an enjoyable read, despite the stock characters and ridiculous contrivance at the end. I sense that the author wanted to keep this book short (it is barely over 200 pages) and, for that reason, took some shortcuts. Since “Capriati’s Blood” is the first in a series of Rhode novels (none of the others of which I have read), this just might be some growing pains on the author’s, and the character’s part. As for the present book, “Capriati’s Blood” may be formulaic, but De Maria does a good job of following the formula.
An engaging page-turner, Capriati's Blood gets 4 stars instead of 5 because the author introduced two love interests for his wisecracking detective. I found this a bit awkward, to the point of questioning whether at least one was contrived raciness. Neither subplot harmed the story, but the too-easy infatuations were a speed bump for me.
There's not much to go on, and as Rhode tries to track down the missing Capriati based on the few traces from his childhood and college days in Staten Island, he finds himself getting some unwanted attention from local Russian and Italian mobsters, who seem to have something to do with the sudden disappearance of Capriati shortly after the affair that left Ellen James with a daughter.
Both the narration and the dialogue are alive with wit and energy as De Maria, a longtime reporter for the New York Times, keeps the pace going through this relatively short (218 pages) thriller. Rhode is a sympathetic character possessed of a reckless integrity that makes him a soft touch for a part-time thug who is tailing him and a less sympathetic conspirator who dupes him. He takes romance where he can find it, falling not only for his client but for a swimming instructor/philosophy teacher at the college where he begins his search for Capriati.
De Maria renders the quirky charm of New York's forgotten borough with the affection of a native and also offers another convincing portrayal of Florida, the primary setting for his earlier Sound of Blood mystery, as Rhode closes in on his quarry. Telling details and vivid descriptions make both settings come alive.
There are numerous twists in the plot, some more convincing than others, but once you're along for the ride it's a simple matter to suspend disbelief as called upon. The plot needed perhaps one more layer or clever twist to qualify as a full-fledged novel, but in the age of e-books we no longer have to worry about length or complexity as long as the author, as he does in this case, serves up a completely satisfying read.