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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A lot of reviewers have noted lately that too many bestselling writers are writing the same book over and over again. Nobody is ever going to accuse Faye Kellerman of that. Not after this book.
Her new novel Moon Music is not only the best book she's ever written, it's also one of this year's most unique and riveting reads, a mystery that contains elements of horror, metaphysics, and Native American culture.
The novel is way too complex to outline coherently, so let's just say that while it starts out not unlike a police procedural, involving the murder of a mutilated Las Vegas prostitute, it is filled with the faint, echoing cries of a shadowy netherworld that Kellerman makes perfectly believable. That netherworld, Kellerman is saying, is there for all of us to see — if we just know how to look. She finds evidence of it in some mighty strange and disturbing places, for the murdered woman leads detective Romulus Poe to learn that she was once the mistress of one of his colleagues, and the killing also seems to have some bearing on a much older murder. Complicating things is Poe's relationship with his police colleague's wife — she and Poe were once lovers. Thus, there are two powerful story lines operating here — the police investigation through seedy Las Vegas, and Poe's look back at his own troubled life. Kellerman dovetails these plotlines skillfully.
The setup reminds me a bit of Richard Matheson's brilliant Las Vegas vampire story The Night Stalker, the Vegas atmosphere, with its sociological climate, offering the author a perfect opportunity tomixdrama with sly humor. Her detective Poe has a unique take on his city. And on himself. Kellerman is a master of the sly aside, and she's never been nimbler:
Poe watched as she bounced toward the office. His groin was still fixated on her ass. But his mind was elsewhere — thinking about the claws of a possessed woman, a howling coyote with doleful eyes, and a rattler with a bite as painful of rejection.
Poe, as the last image implies, can tell you a whole lot about rejection, especially in his love life, which Kellerman fleshes out with glum, rueful details. A disco dandy he ain't. Nor a white knight. He's a more believable cop (he has his good-cop days, his bad-cop days) than we've seen in a long time, even in books written by cops.
Kellerman's voice as a social commentator and urban historian has never been stronger, nor her writing more exemplary. She makes the city a true (and truly menacing) character. Science and sociology can explain away some of the menace — but not all of it. It's one of the best Vegas books I've ever read. She also does something daring and spectacular with the various aspects of the investigation, the mysticism and the folk legends particularly. Instead of using them as simple window dressing, and explaining them away in scholarly terms, she turns them into urban legend — they seem fresh, raw, modern, inexorably bound up with the history of Las Vegas itself. These moments are dark and scary indeed. She really knows how to handle all this new material.
While some readers will no doubt miss Kellerman's regular crew, they will be genuinely rewarded by this dark, evocative, strange, and yet utterly believable novel. Faye Kellerman rolled the dice on this one — and won big.