According to Hillary Belle Locke's bio, she graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, worked for a prominent New York law firm, and now practices law in a city far from New York. This background is reflected in her new mystery, Collar Robber and in one of the two protagonists, Cynthia Jakubek who has quit a Wall Street law firm to set up her independent practice in Pittsburgh where her key client wants an annulment so he can marry his true love in the Catholic Church.
Collar Robber's other protagonist is Jay Davidovich, a strapping, six-foot former MP who now works as a Loss Prevention Specialist for a global insurance company. The plot revolves about a scam involving a modern painting worth $50 million—a loss worth preventing.
Locke has published two other mysteries, one starring Jakubek, one starring Davidovich. I suspect that writing those books taught Locke some of the tricks she uses to make Collar Robber so satisfying. It was an inspired decision to put them in the same book. Because their backgrounds, attitudes, experiences, and gender are different (and convincing), and because they are involved with different players in the scam, Locke is able to create scenes and situations she could not have done as easily—or at all—from the point of view of only Jakubek or Davidovich.
Aside from satisfaction of working out the complexities of the case—who's the bad guy? who's innocent? what's this guy's involvement?—I thoroughly enjoyed Locke's writing. Here's Davidovich sitting with his pregnant wife in the OB/GYN waiting room "like some regular guy who worked in an office and didn't encounter thugs and Tasers on the job. What would it be like, having a real office job? Ten-fifteen, time to grab some more coffee! Ooh, quarterly budget report due in three days—pressure-city, baby! No whiffs of electrically burned human flesh. No wondering whether I'd get iced before the tyke in Rachel's womb had his first Little League game or her first Suzuki recital."
Here's Jakubek on her way into court: "I was shouldering my way through a throng of drunks, wife-beaters, hookers, street-hustlers, first-offense (sure) shoplifters, and bar brawlers in the hallway outside Branch 2 of the City of Pittsburgh Municipal Court. I got the 'important' part [of Davidovich's message], but it wasn't as important to me as stalking a client, which is what had brought me to this Hogarthian hallway."
If I have any quibble at all (and what would a review be without a quibble?), I had some trouble keeping straight the names of all the players scattered through the text: Dany Nesselrode, Will Szulz, Proxeine Violet Shifcos, Grace Stannard Dalhousie, Jennifer Stannard Huggens, Sean McGeoghan (pronounced "McGuffin," an unfortunate choice if it makes the reader think of Alfred Hitchcock), Abigail Northanger, Alma von Leuthen, Andy Schuetz, Dan Quindel, Avrim Halkani, and more.
Nevertheless, the writing is so much fun the reader (this reader) is willing to make the effort to follow along. A paragraph like this makes up for a lot: "As he glanced to his left I thought Tally couldn't have looked more astonished if he'd seen ET peddling toward the sky on his bicycle. Couldn't blame him. Clarence Washington, in all of his tiny wispiness, five-feet-nothing and a hundred-twenty pounds soaking wet, was charging forward like a chihuahua with designs on raping a St. Bernard."
I'm not going to tell you what a Collar Robber is because it's key to the mystery. But if you want a fast-moving, entertaining novel starring two interesting characters, read the book to find out.