Title: Key West Interlude: Paulette Marshall Mystery Series
Author: Lois Richman
Genre: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths
Reviewed by: Joe Kilgore
Pacific Book Review
Lois Richman puts the pedal to the metal on the very first page of this book and doesn’t slow down until she reaches the end of a drive filled with twists, turns, familial dysfunction and dastardly deeds done in the dead of night. Along the way, characters multiply exponentially, tributary stories become mainstream, and a loose end or two doesn’t quite get tied up. All of that however is seemingly secondary to infusing her tale with energy—which she does relentlessly.
The wild ride begins immediately with the gang-related murder of a young boy in a poor LA County middle school where Paulette Marshall works. After dealing with that tragedy, she hopes to find solace within the confines of the Bel Air mansion she shares with her husband, a high-rolling plastic surgeon. What she finds however, is just the opposite. After twenty-two years of marriage, he announces he wants a divorce so he can marry his young, blonde medical staffer he’s recently impregnated. Emotions explode. Legal wrangling begins. Soon Paulette is off to Key West to try to get her head back on straight.
Between the mainland and the far end of the keys, she witnesses a potential shooting and has all her valuables stolen. By the time she’s temporarily ensconced in her cousin’s beachside home, a second story begins. It concerns an aging Cuban charter boat captain who takes Paulette on her first tour. Before you can say “aye-aye,” the crux of the narrative has morphed into his past, his present, and the future he has planned for the eighteen year old high school girl he’s unknowingly put in a “family-way.” There’s also a third storyline about a young woman who ran away from home as a child, later jumped into the sea during a hurricane, and turns up from time to time to sponge off people as she hunts down her inheritance. While those subplots threaten to boil over, the police raid the home of Paulette’s cousin and arrest him on drug charges.
One would think that the majority of this yarn would be focused on how Paulette deals with all of the above. Yet the author has chosen to build the bulkhead of this speedboat around the Captain, his young paramour, nefarious financial dealings, smuggling, theft, dirty cops, and more. Paulette is certainly involved tangentially, but often plays second fiddle, until returning to her starring role near the end.
Richman has an ear for contemporary dialogue. She uses it early and often. Such use certainly speeds the pace, but a tendency to insert speech from characters that have yet to be introduced, sometimes slows comprehension. According to the author, this is simply one installment in the Paulette Marshall Mystery Series. If other chronicles are as jet propelled as this one, readers will need bookmarks that come with seatbelts.