NY: St. Martin, 2008.
This is Ewan’s second novel about Charlie Howard, mystery novelist-slash-gentleman burglar, and while it’s not bad, it’s not as good as the first one (set in Amsterdam) — or, for that matter, the third one (Vegas).
Charlie’s good at making bad decisions and proves it, while in an intoxicated state in the City of Lights, by taking a fee to mentor a young would-be burglar on his first break-in — into his own apartment. Or so Charlie thinks. Then his fence in Paris passes on to Charlie his next assignment: Breaking into the very same apartment to steal an exceedingly mediocre oil painting in exchange for way too much money. But the painting is already gone. And when Charlie gets home, he finds the owner of the apartment he burgled (twice) is now dead and tied to one of his kitchen chairs. And if all that isn’t enough, his agent and closest friend, Victoria, comes on an unexpected visit from London — and she doesn’t even know what he really looks like, having always assumed the jacket photo on his books was genuine.
The set-up is pretty good and there are enough puzzles and unexplained happenings to keep the reader almost as busy trying to figure things out as Charlie is himself. But after awhile, with two separate art thefts, a murder, a whole series of mysterious phone calls, and a not-very-convincing government-employed fixer, it all becomes rather too complicated. And as the questions pile up, the pace of the narrative slows down. By the halfway point, I was trying to decide whether the satisfaction of finding out whodunit was sufficient payback for plowing through the rest of the story. (I found I couldn’t not finish it.) I’m not even sure all of the questions were answered and all the secondary mysteries solved. Moreover, Ewan makes many of the same sort of grammatical errors and gaffes in vocabulary that plagued his first book, such as appearing to believe that “in,” “into,” and “inside” are interchangeable. So while it’s not a bad book, really, it would definitely have benefited from tighter editing and some hand-holding editorial rewrite.