Written by RG Belsky — This is the fourth crime mystery in the series featuring New York Daily News reporter Gil Malloy, dogged practitioner of a fading profession. Following on from The Kennedy Connection, it’s written in the first person and holds you close to the genial Malloy and his ups and downs.
On the up side, Gil Malloy has fallen into what may be the scoop of the year: a beautiful blonde serial killer is targeting married men who are cheating on their wives. Malloy’s print editor Marilyn Staley and his internet/social media editor Stacy Albright want to milk the sexy story for all it’s worth, and keeping these two antagonists happy is like a second career. Another plus, Malloy’s ex-wife Susan shows promising signs that all is not well with her new marriage. Is there a chance? To cap off his good luck, Malloy has received a juicy job offer from the man likely to be New York’s next mayor.
On the down side, our hardboiled hero discovers the scoop through Victoria Issacs, who tells him her husband’s gone missing. In a former life, Issacs was the infamous prostitute called Houston. When Malloy wrote a Pulitzer-nominated feature article about her several years back, neglecting to disclose his quotes were all second-hand and he’d never actually met her, the criticism was withering. Some said he made her up. He nearly lost his job, and the stress cost him his marriage. Saying too much about Issacs now will reveal that Malloy actually knows her real identity and, probably worse, has concealed it from his editors.
But Houston’s secret isn’t keepable when a hotel maid finds Walter Issacs dead. The knockout blonde who went up to the room with him has disappeared. Though Malloy can’t imagine why any man would step out on the gorgeous Houston, he shares what he knows with NYPD detective Wohlers. In turn, Wohlers gives him a bit of a head start in getting the story out. As the murders keep coming, the chase is on: Wohlers after the killer, and Malloy after the story.
The gorgeous blonde linked to every death eventually earns the sobriquet Blonde Ice. Malloy actually has an easy time maintaining his reporting lead because she starts reaching out to him by phone and email, sharing dumb blonde jokes and the locations of her next victims. Here’s an example:
“So this guy walks into a bar and announces he wants to tell a dumb blonde joke:
‘I’m a blonde and I have a black belt in karate,’ the woman bartender says to him. ‘The woman sitting next to you is a blonde with a black belt in karate too. And the woman on the other side of you is also a blonde with a black belt in karate. Now, do you still want to tell us your dumb blonde joke?”
‘Nah,’ the guy says. ‘Not if I have to explain it three times afterward.'”
Malloy is a genial, regular-guy kind of narrator with a wisecracking exterior that makes for some lively banter in the newsroom and in his efforts to get back between the sheets with Susan. His colleagues keep telling him his constant jokes can wear thin. He knows that, but can’t seem to stop himself. It is, in fact, his armour.
Belsky is an experienced New York journalist who describes the woes and conflicts in today’s news business exceedingly well and conjures up a realistic, energetic New York City, too. Frustratingly, the supporting characters Staley, Albright, and detective Wohlers repeatedly jump to conclusions about the case based on assumptions but without much evidence. How is it possible there was no forensic evidence at any of these violent crime scenes? No long blonde hair, for instance? Credibility here requires a little more elaboration than the author provides. And whenever any of the characters state that their current theory of the case closes the book on the Blonde Ice serial killer, they are wrong, of course, and the author has another surprise in store. It becomes a bit of a pattern.
The narrative glosses over various routine aspects of murder investigations. How did a woman overpower these much larger, fit men? Drugs seem an obvious possibility, at least worth mentioning, then discarding in some plausible way, if the plot requires it. But there’s no mention of toxicology tests of the victims until Chapter 49. And, how was Malloy and Wohlers’ suspect (a private investigator) able to collect the video and photographs of married men in mid-cheating? Although this book is not a police procedural, Malloy’s proximity to the investigation and his evident skills as a reporter suggest he should be asking questions exactly like these.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars