In the bleak wasteland of the Nevada desert, not far from the sparkling, 24-hour neon of the world famous Las Vegas Strip, the body of a once-beautiiful showgirl is discovered, horribly mauled and mutilated. It is a horrendous crime, shocking in its brutality, excessive even for a city celebrated for its excess. Seasoned police veteran and Vegas native Detective Sergeant Romulus Poe has seen his fair share of depravity in this mecca of glitz and vice. But there is something about this unfortunate young woman's death -- and in a similar murder that is to follow soon after -- that harkens back to an unsolved slaying and so-called suicide a quarter-century ago. The grim similarities -- along with some frightening new possibilities -- are leading Poe into a night world of dark shadows best left unilluminated..and pulling the inquisitive policeman toward secrets from a strange and sordid past that could destroy those closest to him, and drag him over the edge.
In leaving behind LAPD detective Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus (last seen in Serpent's Tooth, 1997), for this Las Vegas mystery, Kellerman unfortunately also abandoned the warmth and depth of characterization that mark her series' books. Featuring Las Vegas homicide cop, Romulus Poe, in the murder investigation of two prostitutes, this tale also trades in the series' foundation in religion (Orthodox Judaism) for sensational pseudo-scientific and/or supernatural suggestions of lycanthropy. The first prostitute whose badly mutilated corpse is found in the desert was the onetime mistress of Poe's fellow cop Steve Jenkins. That complication exacerbates the two cops' already strained relationship: Poe and Jenkins's wife, Alison, who were high-school lovers, still harbor feelings of attachment. Alison's mental and emotional instability figure large in the narrative, which also involves the above-ground testing of atomic bombs at the Nevada Test Site when Poe and his twin brother, Remus, were infants. (The boys' growth was severely stunted; Remus, the first to be treated with growth hormone, became a seven-foot giant; Rom, treated less aggressively, achieved a normal height). Alison, a teenager when her mother died under suspicious circumstances, may also have been affected by radiation fallout. More deaths and mutilations lead to a climactic action scene at the Test Site, but it and the sketchy resolution are no more convincing than the dialogue, the characterization or the plot in this neon-lit disappointment from a writer capable of much better work.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 05, 1999
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Excerpt from Moon Music by Faye Kellerman
Ignoring the subtle vibrations under his pillow because he was just too damn comfortable. Warm and sated, inhaling the rich sensuality of musky sex. With force, Jensen opened a rebellious lid, his vision assaulted by the Strip's strobic neon. Outside the winds moaned, pushing everything in their paths. Grit crackled against the picture window as his eyes swept over the vista. A panoply of garish colors nonexistent in nature.
Looking away from the glass, back down at his covers. Beside him, Gretchen slept--young and little--beads of sweat lining the crack of her small, round ass. He wanted to take a bite out of it. His breathing became pronounced, audible.
Then his pager went off again.
Jensen swore to himself, then, with resignation, lifted his head from the pillow. He'd never realized how much a cranium could weigh. Digging his palms into the mattress, he hoisted his large frame forward until he was sitting. He tried to make out the number in the dark, but gave up and flicked on the light.
"Hmmm," she grunted. "Turn it off."
"In a minute."
"What time is it?"
Jensen's heart jumped as he read the number. Rom's mobile phone. How long had he been beeping in?
"One-thirty," he snapped back.
"One-thirty?" She was whining now. "C' mon, baby. Bebe says we got the room until three. Turn off the light."
Jensen already had his pants on. "I've got to go."
"But it's so nasty outside."
"Nasty" was an understatement. The wind was howling dust and sand. Jensen slipped on his shirt and socks and tied his size eleven shoes. Brought up the hotel's outside line and punched in Rom's numbers. Static over the wires like lightning. Still he could make out a terse "Poe."
"Lemme go inside my car. If we get disconnected, call me back."
The line managed to keep as whooshing sounds, like tidal waves, came through the receiver. Jensen knotted his tie, then stroked Gretchen's ass. She purred, then rolled over and made a little snoring noise. Just as well. No sense starting what couldn't be finished. He heard the pop of the car door closing, the gusts die down. "What's up?"
"You turn your pager off, Stephen?"
"Why? How many times did you beep me?"
"Half a dozen."
Jensen knew Poe was exaggerating. "Must have slept through it."
Not a total lie, but one Poe wasn't about to buy. "You know, I almost broke down and called your house."
Jensen's heart started hammering. For once, he paused before speaking. Rom had said "almost."
As if Alison didn't know. Yet she chose to play dumb. After fifteen years of marriage, he still hadn't figured her out. In the early years, she had kept him at arm's length. He had put it down to her youthful shyness . . . their difference in age. Later on, her mental state made her impenetrable, her mind blocked by a steel-trap door of undiagnosed illness.
Jensen was all professional now. "What's going down, Rom?"
"Single desert dump off West Charleston."
"In Red Rock?"
"Before." Poe gave directions. "And, in answer to your unasked question--how someone came upon the body by happenstance at this time of night and in this weather--no, it doesn't make any sense. The call came through a public phone outside Big Top." A beat. "Where are you, by the way?"
"Big Top." Pause. "Want me to go downstairs and check it out?"
"You have a print kit on you, Steve?"
"I meant to guard the phone." Jensen's voice rose a notch. "You got a problem with me tonight, Rom?"
I've got a problem with you every night, Stevie. Instead, Poe said, "I've already sent someone down to dust. But sure, go down and take a peek if you think it'll do some good." A hesitation. "I've got to get back, watch the corpse to make sure the sand doesn't totally bury it before the ME gets here."
"Stiff a male or female?"
"Female. One of her breasts was partially exposed. I can't tell if her entire body is nude, because the rest of her is coated with sand. I couldn't find a purse or any ID. Useless to search now. Tomorrow we'll go on a treasure hunt to look for things tossed and blown."
"You, me . . . probably Patricia." Poe swiped limp, dark hair from his black eyes, stared out the windshield of the Honda. Darker than syrup and about as thick. Even the moon was having trouble breaking through. "After you check out the phone booth, get down here. And bring some light. The grit is so thick I can barely make out my shadow."
Over the line, Jensen said, "Why don't you hammer down a stake and go home?" A pause. "Body'll keep till morning."
Poe could picture Steve's flip smile as he caressed the backside of his latest mistress. What was her name again?
Greta? Something like that. "I'm hanging up."
And he did.