Monday, September 24, 2018

Review of The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag (Bantam, 2006)

Irina Markova worked as a groom at horse stud by day and partied with the rich men of the Florida polo set at night. When Elena Estes finds her murdered colleague’s body in a canal, ravaged by alligators, she’s determined to seek justice. A former cop, Estes knows how to conduct an investigation, but this one is going to be personal: she know the victim, the lead cop is the man she split up with a couple of days before, one of the suspects is her former fiancé, and the lawyer hired by the rich set to damp any investigation is her estranged father who defended her fiancé from a charge of rape. To add spice to the mix, Irina’s uncle is head of the local Russian mob and he wants revenge, and Elena is attracted to a Spanish polo player who runs with the self-styled alibi club that seems to protecting a group of men who were partying with Irina the night she died. Nothing though is going to stop her discovering the truth.

The Alibi Man is the second book in the Elena Estes series. Estes used to be a cop, but now works on a stud farm owned by a friend and moves around the fringes of the rich polo community. When she finds one of her co-workers dead, rather than leave the investigation to the cops, Elena starts to her own manhunt. At one level, the setup and the unfolding of the investigation works fine. Elena is a feisty, headstrong woman who knows how to handle herself, and the elitism and sense of entitlement of the polo set creates a nice foil. On another level, the tale is riddled with coincidence and personal ties between characters: Elena knows the victim, was recently dating the lead cop, was the fiancé of the lead suspect, and her estranged father represents the members of the self-titled ‘alibi club’. That much personal baggage adds a certain frisson to the story, but also leadens it, making it difficult to feel the tale has much credibility. Added to that, most of the characters are one dimensional caricatures, though that is made up for by sparring between the two lead cops. The result is a story that has a good pace, tension and entertainment, but has a little too much melodrama, too many plot devices, and feels like a Hollywood movie script where the pizzazz overrides realism.

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