THE SNAKE TATTOO
(Second in the Carlotta Carlyle series)
St. Martin's Minotaur
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Carlotta Carlyle, ex-cop, struggling private eye, and 6'1" of long tall redhead, takes any case that walks through the door. This time the door opens twice. First in is her old partner, Lieutenant Mooney of the Boston police, unfairly charged with brutality, suspended, and desperate. The witness who can clear him is a hooker with a snake tattoo...and she's vanished.
The second client is a teenager with a missing wallet and a split lip. He's been roughed up on the Boston streets while searching for his runaway girlfriend. He's too young to be a client, and Carlotta should have turned him down. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...didn't.
Both investigations send Carlotta into Boston's Combat Zone and the dark alleys of the human heart. Hookers don't disappear and kids don't take off without good reason. Now Carlotta is coming face to face with the evil that men do, and what is she going to do about it? Tackle it head on....
THE SNAKE TATTOO
Indianaopolis News, August 26, 1989
Private eye Carlotta Carlyle delightful in second appearance"
Move over Spenser. you've got competition. Private Investigator Carlyle is on the job, and the bad guys in Boston have another white knight on their case.
Two years ago, Carlyle was introduced in her first book.
A Touble of Fools and she's back again with all her humor and style and toughness intact. This time she's working on two cases simultaneously.
Fourteen-year-old Valerie Haslam is missing, yet no one seems worried but her young neighbor and schoolmate, Jeremy Toland, who hires Carlyle to find her. Valerie's spaced-out mother thinks she's probably out staying with friends; her stockbroker father is coldly unncerned; her too-handsome drama teacher is so self-absorbed he's barely aware that she hasn't been to school for several days.
At the same time, Lieutenant Joe Mooney, an old friend of Carlyle's from her days with the Boston Police, has been suspended for brutality, and he hires Carlyle to find a witness to the pistol whipping that can prove the victim came at him with a knife — a witness with a snake tatoo — and clear his name.
Luckily, both cases take her to the Combat Zone, well, perhaps not luckily, because the Zone is a scuddsy area of Boston inhabited by prostitutes, pimps, drug-dealers and other low-lifes. But Carlyle's part-time job as a cab driver comes in handy as a cover for her detective work. Who looks at a cab prowling slowly along a street, the faceless driver blending into the background?
As Carlyle works on her two cases, she is also working on hurrying up Twin Brothers Plumbing, a former client who — due to financial difficulties — couldn't pay her and thus are working off their bill by remodeling her bathroom. They are being supervised by Roz, Carlyle's roomer, a punk-rock artist, who's acting as interior decorator for the job, which gives some idea of what Carlyle is up against.
Barnes' book is peopled by a weird and wonderfully funny group of characters in her personal life, both at the cab company and at home, including her cat, T.C., who gets all the mail, and her parakeet, who has several names. Carlyle speaks in the first person, and her speech is filled with Yiddish words and sayings of her mother and grandmother, whose humor and love of life Carlyle obviously is carrying on.
She lives near Howard Square in a Victorian house which she inherited from her Aunt Bea. She loves the
old time done-me-wrong blues, which she plays on her guitar and listens to on her boom box while driving her cab. She likes junk food and her only exercise is volleyball, which she adores because of the competition involved.
There's even a small love interest involving her boss at G & W Cab Co.
All in all, Carlyle has to be one of fiction's most delightful detectives. The only thing better than Carlyle alone would be for Robert B. Parker and Linda Barnes to combine Spenser and Carlyle (I wonder if anyone has noticed the literary quality of their names) in a book together, much as Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller have done with their San Francisco detectives. Now that would be a hilarious adventure.
— Betsy Caulfield, News Correspondent
GUTSY, funny, sharp and streetwise, Carlotta Carlyle is a welcome addition to the swelling ranks of female American private eyes. The 6 ft, blues guitar-playing former cop and part-time cabbie amply fulfils the promise of her debut in Barnes' first novel,
A Trouble of Fools.
Carlotta cannot refuse to help an old friend (and would-be lover), in this case her ex-boss Lieutenant Mooney of the Boston police. Attacked in a bar, he lashed out hard and landed his assailant in a coma. Suspended, pending an investigation the only witness has disappeared; the only clue to the woman's identity, a snake tattooed on one leg.
All trails lead to the city's red light district — and another case for Carlotta. A thoroughly engaging, beautifully orchestrated plot, peopled by idiosyncratic characters, delightful and otherwise.
— Clare Flowers
Richmond Times Dispatch, March 19, 1989
Linda Barnes won fans with her Michael Spraggue mysteries, but it was the creation of Carlotta Carlyle that she has arrived. Carlotta is a fiesty 6 feet 1 inch redhead who makes ends meet as a Boston cabbie while awaiting cases as a private eye. After winning the American Mystery Award for Best Private Eye novel, Carlotta is back with all the upbeat charm and vivid street sense of the initial adventure. This time she has two cases. She's trying to track down the blonde hooker with the snake tattoo, a witness who can her clear old police buddy Lt. Mooney of brutality charges.
Then she gets involved in the search for a 14-year-old runaway from one of Boston's Harvard-style private schools. Moving from the plush life of Lincoln to the sleazy streets of the Combat Zone, from the learned atmosphere of New England Prep to the wild secrets of Chinatown, she gives us the pulse of the city and a wonderful assortment of colorful characters. Plot, culture and adventure blend in a seemly casual narrative that demands a wonderful heroine. Carlotta delivers on all counts. She is her own woman in all things, being both sassy and wise, with a touch of the zany and an ever-competent, ever-compassionate view of life.
— Robert Merritt
Orlando Sentinel, March 5, 1989
The Snake Tattoo (St. Martin's Press, $17.95) is the second novel to feature Boston private investigator and sometime cab driver Carlotta Carlyle. Carlotta first appeared in 1988 in the acclaimed A Trouble of Fools. Here Carlotta returns with two cases. First, her police friend, Lt.Mooney, needs her to find a witness to a bar fight, during which Mooney seriously injured a man. If he can't come up with a witness, he may be forced to give up his badge and possibly face criminal charges. The only thing Mooney can remember about the witness is that she had a snake tattoo on her leg.
Secondly, Carlotta is hired by a 16-year-old boy to find his neighbor, a 14-year-old girl, who may be working as a prostitute in Boston's Combat Zone. Things get more serious when a teacher who may have been helping the girl is found dead in his car. The death is ruled a suicide, but Carlotta has other ideas.
Linda Barnes puts her knowledge of Boston to good use in the story as Carlotta explores both its wealthy and seamy sides. And Carlotta is sure to win more fans with her second appearance.
— Robert J. Randisi, Special to the Sentinel