Eve Missing by Ralph Pezzullo
Review by Dale Stoyer

Ralph Pezzullo's first P.I. novel is a quickly paced, hard-edged mystery served with heaping portions of sex and action.

Unlike other disgraced ex-cop protagonists, we get more than hints about how Anthony "Smokey" Annicelli got that way. The book opens with a frank account of Smokey's last days on the force and the last call he took with his partner Wolf. When the dust settles he has been squeezed out of the force under an umbrella of doubt and suspicion. The book fast-forwards a few months to Annicelli living on his pension and feeling sorry for himself. He takes a friend's advice and calls the mysterious and well-connected businessman Sabino Goldstick who helps start the healing process.

Sabino Goldstick. He had a reputation a mile long. Used to be a cop, walked off the job one day because he didn't like all the red tape, liked to do things his own way, was reported to have connections to the Mob, got things done, made a load of money, operated out of a townhouse on the Upper Eastside."

Through Sabino, Smokey meets a troubled girl named Lina and helps put her life back on track, keeping in touch with her over the years as she blossoms into a sought after fashion model. The book then jumps another 10 years, with Lina calling Smokey for help when her friend, Eve, disappears.

It turns out that Eve started out on the street as Angela Bowman and was taken in by Danielle Giroux on a 'rescue-the-street-urchin' whim. In a year and a half Danielle was able to use her connections to help launch Eve's own modeling career. Then Eve walked out leaving nothing but questions in her wake.

Annicelli's investigation leads him on a twisted, tangled trail of love gone wrong. Almost every character he encounters is involved with at least two lovers. And Smokey's no cowering virgin either -- he seems to become sexually entangled with most of the women he encounters along the way. But when he becomes emotionally involved with Danielle, he loses his objectivity . Not long after he begins to suspect that Eve is not just missing, but perhaps dead, which results in Lina wanting him off the case.

Smokey has no trouble finding clues, and isn't afraid to get physical if it will help get the information he needs. Pezzullo doesn't make his hero bulletproof, though, and the result is a refreshing take on the crusading P.I. This is a good first effort that sets the stage for what is clearly intended to be an ongoing series. There's plenty of action and sex, some truly memorable characters (particularly Smokey himself) and a pleasingly convoluted mystery with a satisfyingly memorable climax. Even better, it's refreshing to see a protagonist actually forced to deal with the aftermath of being shot, in a genre where that is a very real occupational hazard.

Really the only flat note in the book comes early on, when Smokey heads to Florida for his daughter's pregnancy-driven wedding. He spends a couple of days (and a whole unnecessary chapter) playing Travis McGee to his friend's Meyer on a booze soaked, sun-drenched boat trip to Bimini. At the end of it, there's a quick write-up on his daughter's wedding and then it's back to New York, with the events from Florida having little effect on the rest of the story.

Ralph Pezzulo is an award winning playwright and a screenwriter who has even written for Miami Vice (which may explain the Florida excursion), so perhaps it's no surprise that the book is well-written and entertaining.

Eve Missing
By Ralph Pezzullo
Zumaya Publications, 2003
292 pages
Buy this book

Review submitted by Dale Stoyer, August 2004.
A version of this review originally appeared in Blue Iris Journal.

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