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Cat in an Alien X-Ray by Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat in an Alien X-Ray” is the 25th in Douglas’ “Midnight Louis Mystery” Series.  Authors who follow the alphabet have some difficulty tying in the title that contains a less common letter like X, and I think Douglas was reaching a bit to tie the plot into an alien X-ray.  Of course, since the locale for this series is Las Vegas which is located next to the infamous “Area 54” any number of weird story threads are possible.

I have always considered this a rather silly series.  I don’t especially appreciate animals that voice their thoughts and call the shots that save the day each time, and the cat, Midnight Louis, comes through again to save his person, Temple Barr, and her friends and love interests, Matt Devine and Max Kinsella.  There is a continuing storyline that is laboring toward a climax (perhaps by the time we get to Z in the title).  A reader who just drops into this mystery might get confused, so its primary appeal is to Douglas’ army of existing readers.

Even though I have misgivings every time I sit down to read one of the books in this series, like every other fan of the Midnight Louis series, I can’t seem to stop because I want to find out if Temple actually marries the devine Mr Matt and if Max actually survives his ever-increasing encounters with Kitty the Cutter, the IRA agent who likes to punish men for the abuse she suffered as a child in Northern Ireland.  Both Max and Matt are hurt by this woman in this episode and one wonders why they haven’t turned her in to the ever-alert Lieutenant Molina by now.  Both men appear positively entranced and willing to come under Kathleen O’Connor’s blade just for the privilege of trying to figure out what makes her tick.

I’m disappointed that Temple seems to take a back seat in this installment.  She gets stuck dealing with a rather silly potential client who wants to build a hotel-casino off the Strip that has some connection to aliens and Area 54.  Otherwise, Matt, Max, Midnight Louis and Kitty the Cutter take center stage in “Cat in an Alien X-Ray.”

Loyal fans will read this book, if only to keep up with a long term addiction.

Liz Nichols

 

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Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

It was a pleasure to revisit Deborah Coonts’ character, Lucky O’Toole, in “Lucky Bastard.”  Lucky is the casino executive in Las Vegas in the “A Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure” series.  This is the 4th book in this fast-paced series.

In “Lucky Bastard” our girl has been promoted to VP of Customer Relations for her father’s upscale Babylon Casino.  She is also in the process of leading the renovation of an older property, the Cielo.  Lucky has broken up with her main squeeze, Teddie, and is now doing a courtship dance with the handsome French chef, Jean-Charles.  Meanwhile, her other erstwhile love interest, Dane, turns out to be the subject of a murder investigation when Dane’s wife, a high stakes poker player, is stabbed in the neck with the heel of a pricey Louboutin shoe and is found dead splayed out on top of a Ferrari from the dealership located next to the casino.  Did Dane do in his wife? Did she run into a bad deal at the poker table that led to her demise?  Was she a cheater or a government agent investigating illegal activity?  These are questions Lucky helps her pals, Detective Romeo from the LVPD and private detective Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock, to answer.

The story, like all in Coonts’ series, is action-packed and is full of colorful and appealing characters.  I believe the Lucky series would adapt very well to the big screen because of the great location, the imaginative plots, and the interesting characters.  As you can tell, I’m a Lucky O’Toole fan and I really liked “Lucky Bastard.”

Liz Nichols

 

 

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Cat in a White Tie and Tails by Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat in a White Tie and Tails” is about number 24 in the Midnight Louie Mystery series and is one of the most enduring of the mystery series based on the antics of animals.  Midnight Louie is a particularly sophisticated and precocious black cat owned by Las Vegas PR entrepreneur, Temple Barr.  In this rendition, Louis accompanies Temple and her fiance, Matt Divine, to Chicago where they stay with Matt’s mother and they take a look at a potential job opportunity for Matt as a media host in his home town.  Louis is stolen right out from under the couple at Matt’s mother’s house, but the furry sleuth manages to get himself out of trouble before anyone can figure out where he has been taken.

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, former magician, Max Kinsella, has been asked by his nemesis, Detective Molina, to help solve the seemingly random murder of Cliff Effinger, Matt Devine’s stepfather.  Molina suspects Kinsella of the crime and is hoping that the master magician will incriminate himself.

As usual, Douglas has laced this mystery with plenty of action of the human and feline variety but one wonders how much longer this series can go.  It appears that in the next installment or two Temple and Matt will get married and Max will ride off into the sunset.  A good many of the loose ends of killings that occurred in the last installment or two are tied up in this book.  We already see Max and Temple going their separate ways now that she has settled upon life with Matt, the former priest… unless, of course, the author introduces some new twist.

The best parts of “Cat in a White Tie and Tails” are the chapters Nelson writes (supposedly) with Midnight Louie. Louis is sophisticated, confident and sassy and at the top of his game.

Liz Nichols

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So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

So Damn Lucky”  is the third in the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series.  It should be out to the public in hardcover on February 28. This is another fast-moving, rip-roaring thrill ride through unusual parts of the city that never sleeps including the sewer system and parts of the desert just outside Area 51.

The adventures of Las Vegas Babylon casino’s Customer Relations manager, Lucky O’Toole continues with another crazy set of characters and situations.  Only in Las Vegas…

This time the mystery revolves around a UFO convention and a magician’s attempt to succeed at one of Houdini’s tricks– escape from a water-filled tank. Like Houdini, the magician, Dimitri Fortunoff, fails to make it out of the tank and is extricated by breaking the tank.  The badly injured– or dead?– Fortunoff, never makes it to the hospital.  Evidence is revealed that the ambulance that picks Fortunoff up is not actually from a hospital but was stolen from the ambulance pool.

From investigating the disappearance of the magician Lucky finds out that a  number of Fortunoff’s associates were involved in a failed Area 51 experiment years before.  All of the participants are sworn to secrecy and at least one is a vagrant who lives in the city’s sewer system.  Lucky knows the vagrant, Carl, from previous experiences and is one of the few people he trusts.

Meanwhile, Lucky’s personal life is in a shambles.  She has let fiancee, Teddie go to live his fantasy life as a rock star and she is somewhat torn between remaining loyal to Teddie and accepting the attentions of the new French chef at the casino, Jean-Charles, or possibly the affections of Dane, the Gaming Commission’s representative.  Lucky also finds that, as usual, her penchant for sticking her nose in police matters is bringing her unwanted attention from a killer. The story also progresses on the personal front between Lucky’s bordello-owning mother, Mona, and her casino-owning father, the Big Boss.

I will say that I was not left as satisfied with “So Damn Lucky” as with the two previous Lucky O’Toole mysteries.  I found the story of how all the magicians and UFO specialists related to the mystery about Area 51 rather confusing, as well as to how the killer’s interest was involved in that part of the story.  Perhaps I got distracted while reading parts of the book and should go back and reread portions.

Despite some confusion I am still a huge Lucky O’Toole fan.  She is one of those rare mystery series heroine’s who’s life becomes almost real to the reader.  We care about what happens to her and how she resolves the crises in her personal life.  I can’t help but feel a little sad that she has shut off possibilities of a come-back with Teddie so soon and is about to embark on a relationship with the Frenchman– or so it seems.  Perhaps the tension that defines Lucky’s love life will remain unsettled for now so the reader can go on rooting for their favorite love interest…

The beauty about this particular series is there are endless crazy plotlines available because of the variety of people who live in, work in and visit Las Vegas.  Each book in the series leaves hints as to what is next.  At the end of “So Damn Lucky” we can surmise Lucky will be busy running the revived and renovated Athena as its new CEO in the next book, and there will be some further exploration of this relationship with the French chef. I can’t help but think we haven’t seen the last of either Teddie or Dane, though.

Liz Nichols

Reviewed from a pre-publication copy supplied by the author.

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Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts

The second “Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure” starts out with a truck mishap that releases millions of angry bees on the Las Vegas strip.  Customer Relations executive for the Babylon resort in Vegas enlists the head of an etymological society holding a convention at the hotel to come up with a plan for ridding the strip of the bees.  Unfortunately, it means killing most of them. Later, a local bookie, “Numbers” Neidermeyer, is found dead and half eaten in the shark tank at Mandalay Bay and Lucky’s PI friend, “The Beautiful” Jeremy Whitlock is a suspect.  Further investigation found that Numbers spent part of her last evening in the company of  Daniel and Glinda Lovato, the city’s DA, and his wife.  Both had reason to want Neidermeyer out of the say, as did Glinda’s father, Jimmy G.  In fact, many people had a reason to get rid of Numbers.

There are a couple of other zany storylines in this continuation of Lucky O’Toole’s tale. Lucky’s love, Teddy, has gotten a record contract and a chance to tour with a Los Angeles diva causing a certain amount of friction, and a lot of make-up sex when Teddy returns to Vegas.  The Babylon is getting ready to host Fight Week and particularly the last prize fight of a famous middleweight named Tortilla Padilla.  Padilla, his wife and 15 kids invade the Babylon and charm everyone.  In addition, Lucky’s crazy mother, Mona, has gotten involved with a young woman who wants to sell her virginity to the highest bidder in order to make money to pay for medical school for herself and her fiance and Mona agrees to hold the auction and subsequent deflowering at her brothel in Pahrump.

Las Vegas is the one city in the country where it is actually possible to believe so much zaniness could go on and people can go about their daily lives just thinking all this is normal.  For those of us who do not live in Vegas the Lucky O’Toole series is an opportunity to live vicariously in the middle of these weird situations without actually having to physically go to Vegas.  It makes for a few days of guilty pleasure reading each time a new installment comes out. “Lucky Stiff” was definitely a guilty pleasure.

Speaking of which– the latest Lucky O’Toole book, “So Damn Lucky” is coming out in February.  I look forward to reading it.

Liz Nichols

(A copy of the book was supplied to the author for review.)

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Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts

Deborah Coonts catches the zany, always “on” flavor of Las Vegas with her third “Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure.”  Deborah Coonts lives in Las Vegas where she writes, has practiced law, and seems to be into the kind of mischief that only Las Vegas can offer.

Wanna Get Lucky?” is certainly offers a weird and wonderful assortment of characters.  The regulars include the staff of the Babylon Resort along the Strip in Las Vegas, including Lucky O’Toole, the head of customer relations for the hotel.  Lucky also seems to be in charge of security and in that role runs into a lot of unusual situations such as examining why a person has fallen out of a company plane and has died, how to handle a completely naked and drunk guest who passed out in the stairwells and how to nicely head off guests who want to bring their pet exotic animals into their hotel rooms.

Lucky also has to deal with the wildlife of a human kind.  In this adventure the hotel is hosting a convention for swingers where the highlight of the convention will be a large exhibit of sex toys and live sex demonstrations in a darkened gym. Only in Vegas, baby!

The murder to be resolved comes up very early in the book when Lucky notices a person falling from one of the hotel’s sightseeing planes into the pirate lagoon of the Treasure Island resort.  The tape taken by the news broadcast station is mysteriously missing, and when it is found it shows a known blackmailer, Felicia Reilly, along with the Big Boss and a now missing pilot from the Babylon, in the plane with the girl who plummets to her death, Lyda Sue.

Lucky learns of a plot to discredit the Big Boss and take him out of the resort in favor of a Las Vegas has-been mogul, Irv Gittings.  Is Gittings the real mastermind behind Lyda Sue’s demise?

The plot is simple and it doesn’t take much sleuthing for Lucky to unravel all of the tangled threads of the plot.  She’s very efficient at it, with the help of side-kicks like her assistant, Miss Patterson, her love-interest, cross-dresser and entertainer, Teddie Kowalski, a new police detective, Romeo, and a new guy in Security Lucky doesn’t totally trust, Dane Paxston.  Throw in occasional interaction with Lucky’s Parumph bordello-owning mother, Mona, and heart-to-heart talks with Big Boss, Albert Rothstein, and the book is just full of amusing characters who’s stories are all developed in tremendous detail.

What I particularly love about the book, in addition to the zany humor, are the descriptions of the people and the places in and around Las Vegas.  It is a totally unique place with a totally unique cast of characters running day to day life in the city that never sleeps.  So much is packed in to this novel that it made me exhausted just reading it cover to cover.

A warning to mystery fans:  This book is about 1/3 mystery and 2/3 romantic novel.  For those who prefer to bypass the chick lit, this may not be your cup of tea.  But for the ladies (and gents) who enjoy a little guilty pleasure during your down time, “Wanna Get Lucky?” may just be a turn-on.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

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