Dashiell Hammett, a master of big-city crime fiction, would have enjoyed Richard North Patterson's latest thriller, set in a fictional Midwestern city called Steelton. This burnt-out burg is located on the shores of Lake Erie, and is a place bitterly divided by politics. The construction of a $275 million baseball stadium threatens to be Steelton's downfall, rather than its redemption.
Arthur Bright is Prosecutor of Erie County, but wants to become mayor. His campaign attacks the new ballpark as a sham, "a shameful diversion of public financing from such pressing needs as better schools, better housing, and safer streets." His protégé, Assistant County Prosecutor Stella Marz, is 38, ambitious and has been dubbed "the dark lady" by various defence lawyers. If Arthur wins the mayoral race, she intends to become Prosecutor herself. But two murders involving drugs and twisted sex threaten her future.
First, Tommy Fielding, the project manager for Steelton 2000 (as the new home of the Steelton Blues will be called), is found dead in the company of a hooker--both apparently overdosed on heroin. The fact that Fielding was gay and had never used drugs before bothers Stella and Chief of Detectives Nathaniel Dance. Their worries are soon pushed aside by another, more shocking murder--Jack Novak, a defence lawyer is discovered hanging from his closet door, castrated and dressed in drag. Jack was once Stella's lover--and was also one of Bright's largest contributors. For Stella, the murders are too close to home. "Maybe this is about me. But I have to see it through."
Dark Lady is shrouded by the clouds of deceit and greed, and the sleek structure of Steelton 2000 dominates the landscape like a Dr.Frankenstein's Castle with luxury boxes. --Dick Adler