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Flashpoint    by Linda Barnes order for
by Linda Barnes
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2001 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

PI Carlotta Carlyle is in fine fettle in Flashpoint. Gwen Taymore, a regular volleyball partner, asks Carlotta to give home security advice to an old lady, who feels under siege by her landlord. Carlotta reluctantly agrees to avoid feeling guilty ... 'guilt already ranks so high on my list of preoccupations, I sometimes think of printing it on the dotted line under Employmentin questionnaires.' She appreciates Valentine Phipps' spirited defense of her rent-controlled apartment, though she wonders about her sanity. When Carlotta returns with hardware to install, she discovers Valentine dead of a heart attack and is found there by a female cop, Teri Kiley.

There are lots of complications, of course. Gwen is accused of the old lady's murder; Carlotta's little sister Paolina is in full fledged teen rebellion after her mother disappears; Carlotta's old boss and one time lover Mooney is involved with Teri Kiley; another ex-lover Sam Gianelli returns to town; her room-mate Roz has a new man in tow and he packs a gun; and there's arson, shooting and the Jewish Reclamation League in on the action as well.

Flashpoint is number eight in Barnes' Carlyle series and this heroine only improves. She is surrounded by colorful characters, from the eccentric Roz to her taxi dispatcher friend Gloria - 'When Gloria decides to run, we'll all get the chance to vote for the first overweight, wheelchair-bound, black woman president.' She has confused feelings about the men in her life - ex-boss cop Mooney and the other ex-boss Sam who has Mob connections.

Carlotta is one of the best of the current crop of strong female private investigators - if you haven't met her yet, try this latest novel; it's an absorbing read.

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