Bright Futures (Lew Fonesca Series #6)

Bright Futures (Lew Fonesca Series #6)

4.5 2
by Stuart M. Kaminsky

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Lovable everyman Lew Fonesca, the Man Who Makes Things Work in Sarasota, is once again faced with cases that try his patience and test his sanity.

A local curmudgeon who has been campaigning to end state-sponsored school funding is brutally killed. A recent graduate of a public high school for the gifted is arrested for the crime and turns to Lew for help.<


Lovable everyman Lew Fonesca, the Man Who Makes Things Work in Sarasota, is once again faced with cases that try his patience and test his sanity.

A local curmudgeon who has been campaigning to end state-sponsored school funding is brutally killed. A recent graduate of a public high school for the gifted is arrested for the crime and turns to Lew for help.

A semi-retired and much beloved singer of children's songs is being anonymously pushed to leave Sarasota, threatened with exposure as a sexual predator. It is up to Lew to uncover the blackmailer and determine whether there is any truth to the accusation.

Lew has decided that life is worth more than just going through the motions. But will the good life that Lew so richly deserves elude him as he uncovers some very sad truths? His final choice--do the right thing and see his happiness evaporate... or betray a trust and stay happy…

Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
Fights, murders and shootings aside, Bright Futures is an extremely good-natured book. The murders keep the plot spinning, a bit slowly at times, but I think Kaminsky cares most about the easy humor and essential decency of his oddball cast. These are his people. Will Fonesca get over his near-suicidal depression? Might he and Sally have a future? Will Victor Woo ever take his sleeping bag and go back to his family in Chicago? The novel is a nice juggling act—of crime, humor and sentiment
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
Kaminsky sees goodness in the oddest characters, which is why Lew is still alive, and why we're still reading.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

At the start of the superb sixth Lew Fonesca hard-boiled whodunit (after 2006's Always Say Goodbye) from MWA Grand Master Kaminsky, 17-year-old Greg Lagerman, a student at a school for the gifted, hires Fonesca, who's been working as a process server in Sarasota, Fla., since losing his wife to a hit-and-run driver in Chicago, to exonerate a friend, 17-year-old Ronnie Graell. Graell stands accused of bludgeoning to death an eccentric wealthy politician whose most recent crusade was against a college financial-aid program. Given that the bloodstained suspect was found next to the corpse, Fonesca has his work cut out for him. The gumshoe's initial probes soon place him in the crosshairs of an unknown assailant. Kaminsky provides enough twists and turns to keep most readers guessing, but the book's power comes from the compelling portrayal of Fonseca, who still suffers emotionally from his wife's death, but continues to strive to move forward. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
“Pacing a series is a tricky maintenance job. Move too fast, your hero loses credibility. Move too slowly, your readers get bored. Move just right, you produce Denial.”—New York Times Book Review

“Good dark fun...Kaminsky strikes new chords of imagination every time out.”—Chicago Tribune on Midnight Pass

“Lew is still a triumph: a Lew Archer type with nerve endings so sensitive that when he's asked, 'anybody dead?' he replies, 'Most of the people who ever lived.”—Kirkus Reviews on Retribution

"Kaminsky's sense of place is faultless...he grabs readers and takes them on a memorably tumultuous ride of violent dips and turns."—Publishers Weekly (starred) on Vengeance

“Kaminsky is such a pro that the pages fly by, and even though Lew is often such a sad sack, it’s hard not to root for him.”—The Chicago Tribune on Retribution

“There are three things we’ve come to expect from a Kaminsky story: superb plotting, real-world dialogue and character development. He doesn’t place a foot wrong in any of these departments in Midnight Pass.”—Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Lew Fonesca Series , #6
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Read an Excerpt

Bright Futures

A Lew Fonesca Mystery

By Stuart M. Kaminsky

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 Double Tiger Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2429-0


THERE'S A MAN SLEEPING in the corner of your office," the boy said.

"I know."

"He's Chinese," the kid said. "You want to know how I know?"

"He looks Chinese," I said.

"But he could be Japanese or Korean," the kid said, looking at Victor Woo, who was lying faceup on his bedroll with his eyes closed.

"He's not."

"Pale skin, small eyes, and his ..."

The boy was seventeen, a student at Pine View School for the Gifted. His name was Greg Legerman. He was short, nervous and unable to sit still or be quiet. Next to him sat a tall, thin boy with tousled white hair and rimless glasses. Winston Churchill Graeme, also seventeen, was tall, calm, and sat still, looking at whomever was talking.

"Am I right? Winn, am I right?" Greg said to his friend with a laugh as he punched the other boy in the arm, punched him hard.

Winn Graeme didn't answer. Greg didn't care.

"You're moving," Greg said.

"How could you tell?" I asked.

"The six cardboard boxes over there near the Chinese man."

"I'm moving," I said.

It had taken me less than an hour to pack. I lived in the adjacent room, a small office space, and I owned almost nothing. We were sitting in the reception room, which had a desk, three chairs, and four small paintings on the wall. That was it. My friend Ames McKinney would be by later to pick up the desk, the boxes, the TV with the built-in video player, and the knee-high bookcase.

"They're tearing this building down," said Greg. He grinned.

He was easily amused. He punched Winn Graeme in the arm again.

"Why do you keep punching him?" I asked.

"We're kidding. He punches me sometimes."

Winn gave a halfhearted tap to the arm of Greg Legerman.

"Am I right? They're tearing the building down?"


"You have another place for your office?" asked Greg.


"The Dairy Queen used to be right out there," said Greg.

"Yes," I said.

"They should tear down banks and put up DQs," Greg said.

I agreed but didn't say so. He didn't seem to need anyone agreeing with him about anything.

Victor Woo stirred in the corner and rolled toward the wall.

"Mind my asking who that is?" asked Greg.

"Victor Woo."

"And what's he doing sleeping on the floor of your office?"

"He walked in one afternoon," I said.


"He killed my wife in Chicago. He feels guilty and depressed."

"You're kidding, right?" asked Greg.

"No," I said.

"Wow," said Greg.

I called out, "Don't punch him."

Greg hesitated, shrugged and let his hands fall into his lap for a few seconds before they started to roam again.

"Let's go," Winn said, starting to rise.

Winston Graeme had the remnants of a Russell Crowe accent.

"No wait," said Greg. "I like this guy. I like you, Mr. Fonesca. You come highly recommended."

"By who and for what?"

"By a Pine View student."

"Who is nameless?"

"No, the student has a name," he said with a laugh.

I couldn't open my mouth fast enough to stop him from punching his friend.

"I'm a process server," I said.

"You find people. You help people."

I didn't respond. He hadn't really asked a question. I make enough money to live by serving papers for lawyers. I didn't want more work. I didn't want money in the bank. I wanted to be able to pick up my duffle bag, which was always partially packed, add a few things, and walk out the door.

"We can pay," said Greg. "What's your fee?"

Victor got up on his elbows and looked over at us. He was wearing a red sweatshirt that had a Chicago Bulls logo and the word "Bulls" on the front. The sleeves on the sweatshirt had been roughly cut off.

Something in my face told the two boys that I wasn't interested.

"You can listen," said Greg, starting to rise, changing his mind and sitting again. "Ten minutes."

"Five minutes. What's your problem?" I asked.

"Ronnie Gerall is in jail, juvenile. He's seventeen. They say he murdered a crazy old man. He didn't. The police aren't even looking for anyone else."

Winn Graeme adjusted his glasses again and glanced at Victor.

"Okay," said Greg. "We want you to find someone — the person who killed Philip Horvecki."

I had read about the murder of Philip Horvecki in the Herald-Tribune a few days before. He had been beaten to death in his home. Horvecki was one of the Sarasota super rich. Semi retired, he had earned his money in land development when the market was hot. He was involved in local politics and had run without success for everything from property appraiser and tax collector to city council, and his causes were many.

His latest cause was something called Bright Futures, a program to provide financial aid to high school students going to a Florida college or university. Horvecki wanted the program abolished. He didn't want to pay for people's college education. The argument that the program was paid for by the Florida lottery made no difference to Horvecki.

His second most recent and continuing cause involved Pine View School for the Gifted, a public school for high-IQ and high-achievement students who could test their way in. Pine View was consistently ranked in the top ten high schools in the United States. That didn't matter to Horvecki, who thought taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for elitist education. He wanted to turn Pine View into an open-admissions high school like the others in the county. For this position he had a lot of support.

All of this was in the article I had read. I remembered having the feeling that more was going on.

"Ronnie didn't do it," said Greg, looking around the room as if he had lost something or someone.

"He was found over the body covered in blood," I said.

"Circumstantial," said Greg.

"He was there to fight with Horvecki about his Pine View and Bright Futures positions," I said.

"Ronnie's got a temper I admit," said Greg. "But he's not a killer."

I looked at Winn whose accent was more pronounced now as he said, "Ronnie's not a killer."

"Winn's from Australia," Greg said with something that sounded like pride at having an exotic trophy at his side.

"He was Australian thirteen-and-under golf champ before he moved here with his mom two years ago. Winn's a state runner-up in golf. Winn's also on the soccer and basketball teams at Sarasota High. Pine View doesn't have sports teams. Tell him."

I wasn't sure how Winn Graeme's athletic achievements qualified him to determine that Ronnie Gerall was not a killer.

"We have a rowing team," Winn said. "And cross-country."

Greg started to laugh again. He held up his fist and was stopped by the hoarse morning voice of Victor Woo saying, "Do not punch him again."

"Victor doesn't like violence," I said.

"How did he kill your wife?" asked Greg.

"Hit-and-run," I said.

"Tapping each other's just a joke with my friend," said Greg to Victor. "It's a joke. Don't be lame."

Victor was on his knees now, palms on his thighs. He was wearing purple Northwestern University sweatpants. They didn't come close to being compatible with his Bulls shirt.

"Nonviolent hit-and-run Buddhist, right?" asked Greg. "Do you know there are an estimated seven million Buddhists in China?"

Victor was on his bare feet now, touching his face to find out if he could go another day without shaving. He didn't answer Greg Legerman, who turned to me and said, "Well, will you take the job?"

"You haven't told me who you want to find."

"Horvecki's daughter," said Winn. "She was a witness. Ronnie says she was there when he died. Now she's missing. Or find who killed Horvecki, or both. Charge double."

"No," I said.

"You haven't heard what happened," said Greg.

"I don't care. I'm sorry."

Greg looked at me, stood up, went behind his chair, and rocked it slightly. He was a short, reasonably solid kid.

"You don't look sorry," Greg said.

"I don't need the work," I said.

"We need the help," Greg said.

Nothing he said had turned it for me, but something happened that made me open the door at least a little.

"Let's go, Greg," said Winn. "The man has integrity. I like him."

Greg was shaking his head "no." Victor walked behind the two boys and headed out the front door. He was almost certainly headed to the washroom at the end of the outdoor second-floor concrete landing. Either that or he was headed back to Chicago barefoot. It would not have surprised me.

"Wait," Greg said, shrugging off the hand that his friend had put around his bicep.

In style and size, the two boys were a study in contrast. Greg was short, compact, and slightly plump; Winn tall, lean, and muscular.

Earlier that morning, I had bicycled over, shaved, and washed at the Downtown YMCA on Main Street. I had brushed my teeth, too, and looked at my sad, clearly Italian face.

"How old is Horvecki's daughter?" I asked.

"I don't know," Greg said, looking at his friend for the answer, but Winn didn't know either.

"What's her name?"

"Rachel," said Winn.

"You have a car?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Greg.

"You know where Sarasota News and Books is?"


"We drive over there, you get me two coffees and two biscotti to go, and I listen to your story."

"Fair enough," said Greg. "What about Victor?"

"He knows I'll be back. I need to know who told you about me. I don't have a private investigator's license."

"Viviase," said Winn.

"Ettiene Viviase, the policeman?"

"No," said Greg. "Elisabeth Viviase, the freshman daughter of the policeman."

Sarasota News and Books wasn't crowded, but there were people dawdling over coffee at four of the six tables on the coffee house side of the shop. A few others roamed the shelves of firmly packed rows of books and circled around the tables piled with new arrivals.

We sat at a table near the window facing Main Street. The television mounted in the corner silently played one of the business channels. I wasn't tempted to watch.

"I've got to tell you," said Greg. "I am not filled with confidence about you."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, no offense, but you're a little bald guy in jeans and a frayed short- sleeved yellow shirt. You've got a baseball cap on your head and you look like someone just shot your faithful dog."

"I'm not offended. What do you have to tell me?"

"What? Oh."

Greg grinned and punched his friend's arm again.

"You really are funny."

"I wasn't trying to be," I said.

"I think that woman on television is talking about aliens," said Greg.

"No," said his friend.

"I don't mean illegal aliens. I mean the kind from outer space. Wishu-Wishuu-ooooo."

"That sounds like an Ivy League football cheer," said Winn.

"Get out," said Greg.

"Hit him and I walk," I said.

Greg, fist cocked, looked hurt, but he didn't deliver the punch. Instead, he said, "I did one of my blogs about so-called alien visitors. There aren't any. Aliens with two eyes and two legs aren't coming millions of miles to pluck people out of their beds to probe their rectums with metal rods."

A woman who had been talking to a younger woman at the table next to us looked over at the last comment.

"No aliens," I said.

"No, they're humanoids from the future, maybe hundreds of thousands of years in the future. They're archaeologists or anthropologists or whatever those sciences will be like. They appear and disappear so fast because they zip in and out of time. The shapes of the craft differ because they come from different times in the future."

"Why didn't the ones from farther in the future go back and visit the ones from more recently and coordinate?" I said.

Greg had finished something filled with caffeine over ice and topped with whipped cream. Just what he needed to calm him down. Winn had an iced tea. I played with my coffee and looked at the two extra cups of Colombia Supremo Deep Jungle Roast and the two biscotti to go.

I learned that Ronnie Gerall had come to Sarasota in his junior year, that he was a natural leader, passionate about protecting the school from politicians and social gadflies, particularly Philip Horvecki.

"Everyone likes Ronnie," said Greg. "Particularly the girls."

Greg considered a punch, but his eyes met mine and he dropped his hand to his lap.

"What about his parents?" I asked.

Greg and Winn looked at each other before Greg said, "His mother's dead. His father travels. We've never met Ronnie's father."

"I don't think his father makes much money," said Winn. "He drives a twenty-year-old Toyota."

The ride over and the two biscotti and coffee was the price I had to pay for the information. I listened.

"Did you know that, in their duel, Alexander Hamilton fired at Aaron Burr first, and that Hamilton had been undermining Burr, who at the time was Vice President of the United States?"

"What has this to do with the murdered man and your friend in jail?"

"Nothing," said Winn, adjusting his glasses. "Greg is a master of non sequiturs."

"A connection will occur," said Greg with enthusiasm. "String theory."

"Any other connections between Ronnie Gerall and Philip Horvecki?"

"No," said Greg, squirming in his seat.

The woman at the next table was trying not to listen for more talk about rods being applied to orifices. She was failing.

"Who else would want Horvecki dead?"

"Everybody," said Greg.

"I didn't want Horvecki dead," I said.

"You didn't know him," said Greg.

"Lots of people are happy that Horvecki is dead," said Winn.

"Can we narrow that down a little?"

"Horvecki had legal trouble with people," said Winn.


"We don't know for sure," said Greg. "It was all kept quiet, but everybody knew. Okay, okay, you didn't know."

"Just talk to Ronnie, please," said Winn. "Start there. What do you charge?"

"Eleven thousand dollars a week, but in your case I'll give you a discount because I was recommended by Ettiene Viviase's daughter."

"Eleven thou ...," Greg began.

"He's joking," said Winn.

"I'm not good at jokes. I'm making a point. What would you pay for your friend to be found innocent?"

"Five hundred dollars a week plus expenses," said Greg. "We can get lots of people to contribute. My grandfather could write a check for four thousand and not miss it."

"That's comforting," I said.

"It is to Ronnie," said Greg. "I've got cash."

I let the bills he took out of his pocket rest on the edge of the desk.

"It goes back to you after I talk to your friend," I said, "if I'm not happy with his answers to my questions."

"Then you'll find the killer?"

"Then I'll try to find Rachel Horvecki."

"And the killer," said Greg.

"And the killer," I agreed.

I got a paper brown paper bag from the counter and carefully placed coffees and biscotti inside and then neatly folded the top over before cradling it against my chest. The heat was lulling. I had told the two boys that I wanted to be alone to think and that I'd make it back to my place on my own. Greg wanted to say a lot more. Winn guided him out of the News and Books.

Normally, I would have turned the possible job down with thanks for the refreshments, but I could use the money. I was moving. It didn't cost much but there were things I needed and my bike wanted repair. The number of court papers to serve for my lawyer clients was down for the summer. The snowbirds who came down to their condos, homes, and rentals wouldn't be back to engage in and be the victims of crime for at least three months. There were fewer criminals being brought to justice or just being hauled before a judge for not paying child support. I didn't need much, didn't want much, but now I had Victor Woo to feed and a weekly dinner out with Sally Porovsky and her two kids at Honey Crust Pizza, which would eventually present a challenge even if Sally and I split the bill. And though I was a project for my therapist, Ann Hurwitz, I still had to pay something each time I saw her, even if it was only ten dollars.

When this meeting of the minds was over, I walked down the block to Gulf Stream Boulevard, across from the Bay, to get to my appointment with Ann.

I stepped through the inner door of Ann's office and held out my ritual offering of coffee and biscotti. She looked up from her blue armchair, and I sat in its duplicate across from her as she removed the lid from the cup and dipped an almond biscotti into it. I took off my Cubs cap and placed it on my lap.

"Make me smile," she said.


Excerpted from Bright Futures by Stuart M. Kaminsky. Copyright © 2008 Double Tiger Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Stuart M. Kaminsky is the author of more than 60 novels and an Edgar Award winner who has been given the coveted Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America. In addition to his Lew Fonesca series (for which the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau has officially recognized him as "The Voice of Sarasota"), Kaminsky is also the creator of the critically acclaimed Inspector Rostinkov, Toby Peters, and Abe Lieberman mystery series. He resides with his family naturally enough, in Florida.

Stuart M. Kaminsky was the author of more than 60 novels and an Edgar Award winner who was given the coveted Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America. His series include the Lew Fonesca, Inspector Rostnikov, Toby Peters, and Abe Lieberman mysteries, which includes such titles as Terror Town, The Last Dark Place, and Not Quite Kosher. He passed away in the fall of 2009.

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Bright Futures (Lew Fonesca Series #6) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is. Four ponies in each cabin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago