The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have two criticisms of this book, so I'll start with those.
At times the prose felt a little flat. This is a story with three different points of view and two different era's of time. Yet, I often found myself unsure of which character I was reading because the prose read the same from one to the next. For Judy aka The Black Stiletto, I think there could have been more injection of her Texas twang and charm instead of the constant reference to it existing. And for a teenage girl, she's awfully emotionless at times. For Roberto Ranelli, a man who spent 50 years in jail, he acclimated awfully quickly to being released. Easily using a GPS, accepting to get a cell phone, knowing to ship a gun and not fly with one. Elderly people who aren't locked up don't assimilate that well into society. Martin Talbot's voice was the most constant and how I felt true to character, and it was his voice that came through all the others most often. That common man reasoning, thought processing, emotional level.
Secondly, the ending wraps up way to easily. All loose ends tied up and there doesn't seem to be any headway for a sequel - not that there should be. My point is just that, the menace is dead, Martin resolves all his emotional issues suddenly in witnessing his feeble minded, aged mother defend herself; and the daughter gets approval to pursue her dreams. Maybe a future plot point can be Martin's struggle to keep The Black Stiletto's identity a secret? I don't know and that's the problem. For a mystery plot, the ending is too neat.
Now, I liked the plot overall. The idea of Judy (Cooper) Talbot having this entire secret identity she kept hidden for decades and less than a handful of people know; most of whom are dead. That she's written it all down for posterity and now her son is reliving her glory days through her own words. It's both exciting and heartbreaking - exciting to learn about this entire side of a person who nurtured him into the man he is, but heartbreaking in that he can't talk about it to anyone. Least of all Judy (Cooper) Talbot who is stricken with Alzheimer's. Reading about her first love, her first kill. The dedication to her training and will to live. How she never forgot about the family she had to leave behind in Texas to save herself. Most of all, her loyalty. The message is about her being unique and finding her niche in the world, so in that sense, it's applicable to any reader.
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