RARA-AVIS: Recent read--23 Shades of Black

From: Bruce Makous ( bruce@brucemakous.com)
Date: 17 Jul 2005

Just finished 23 SHADES OF BLACK by K.j.a. Wishnia, 1997 (reprinted 2004 Point Blank Press). His first novel, highly noted because it was self-published then was one of the five finalists for an Edgar for Best First Novel. Really great hardboiled stuff, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was discussed on RARA-AVIS at that time.

In any case, here's a brief summary: Filomena Buscarsela, an Ecuadorian-American cop in NYC, goes through hell trying to solve a crime of corporate corruption and murder. When a man she sees at the scene of a fume accident is then killed at a construction site owned by the same company, she becomes suspicious.She learns he is a painter, whose work focused on exposing the evils of corporate America, and he wrote and performed material that incriminates Morse, Inc., a large chemical company. In her investigation, she starts to uncover connections of the company to organized crime, and they of course are not happy about this. Her zealous pursuit of a formidable foe into a nearly impenetrable web of deceit and violence takes a toll on her personal relationships and pushes her into alcoholism. The NYC police force is portrayed believably as a male chauvinist institution in which it is almost impossible for a woman cop, even a superbly capable one, to distinguish herself. Ken shows his mastery at creating and sustaining a wonderfully sympathetic, though somewhat flawed, character, probably even more sympathetic to women readers than she was to me. Sort of a female version of Bruen's Jack Taylor, I think. She is a small person fighting against the corrupt powers that be, trying to do the right thing. She is a survivor, who starts out somewhat naive and has by the end of the novel become very tough, hardboiled. It is written in first person present, which I found at first to be a surprising choice but is very believable because it accurately captures the sense of a person enthusiastically telling an intensely emotional story. I recommend it, if you haven't checked it out already.

Best, Bruce

Bruce Makous Author: RIDING THE BRAND www.brucemakous.com

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