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Death At the Old Hotel: A Bartender Brian McNulty Mystery    by Con Lehane order for
Death At the Old Hotel
by Con Lehane
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Brian McNulty - New York bartender, wannabe actor, and reluctant investigator - was introduced in Beware the Solitary Drinker and came back for seconds in What Goes Around Comes Around. Between drinks, he bounced reactively between encounters with violence, death, and and racketeering.

Of course, there's more of all this in Death At the Old Hotel, the Savoy, where Brian has landed a job through a friend, wild young Irishman Barney Saunders after his previous misadventures caused him to be dumped by the Sheraton management. Barney, who is Brian's behind the bar partner and 'a derring-do kind of guy', wants to reform the corrupt union, which chooses to turn a blind eye to the hotel's low pay scales and minimal benefits. Barney suspects collusion between Eliot, the union business agent, and the hotel manager, James MacAlister.

The violence begins with a sickeningly vicious attack on Barney himself. Wanting to do something, but also to avoid ending up in hospital with his friend, Brian turns to a wise mentor, his colorful Communist Pop, who says of union gangsters, 'They're like cockroaches. When you turn on the lights, they scatter for cover.' Brian enlists the help of a femme fatale of a waitress, Betsy, who's also a young mother married to an abusive cop. Then an injustice prompts a wildcat strike which Brian helps organize and, as they begin to dig, murders complicate matters further.

The usual cast of quirky characters include Brian's helpful cabdriver friend Ntango. McNulty adopts a stray cat and has trouble with his teen son Kevin, who doesn't want to continue living with his mother. And he does figure out who done what and why, in a fitting resolution to the mystery. Note that the author offers a bonus at the back of the book - bar recipes for over thirty of McNulty's Old Favorites for the reader to taste while turning the pages.

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