Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BOOKS: Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick

It's extremely rare for me to start a series somewhere in the middle and then backtrack. I came to Laura Resnick's Esther Diamond series with the third book Unsympathetic Magic (review) and made an effort to go back and read the first two volumes. The series starter Disappearing Nightly was just about as good as Unsympathetic Magic. But the treasure turned out to be the book in the middle, Doppelgangster.

Jewish Esther makes for an appealing heroine, an actress slash waitress who has mother problems, a would-be boyfriend named Lopez and a friendship with a real-life wizard and as a result, too much knowledge of the world of real magic. It's a mix that doesn't always go well for her. But, as Lou Grant would say, she's got spunk.

Coming off having played a part in rescuing New York from a crazy magician's apprentice last book, Esther tries to cope with her part in killing off  Hieronymus. The deed was actually done by Dr. Maximillian Zadok, Manhattan's resident sorcerer and a long-time member of the Magnum Collegium (think Sorceror's Union). By long time, we are  talking centuries. He makes for a strange pairing with the twenty-something Esther. As does detective Connor Lopez, a down to earth sort who doesn't believe in magic. Which complicates things for Esther because she gets mixed up in things magical without even trying.

Like waitressing at a local joint that's mobbed up. She sings songs, waits tables and gets good tips from the connected guys who appreciate a pretty young thing. She's doing the waitressing thing when a hit goes down right in front of her. By a bullet that doesn't exactly follow a straight line. And not too long after the hit, she meets the victim just coming into the restaurant for a bite to eat.

As it turns out, its his doppelganger she meets.

And pretty soon it's open mob war season with bodies dropping, sometimes twice, as bad guys and their doppelgangers meet their demise. Esther and Max are right in the thick of things, trying to prevent all-out war, aided and abetted by the extremely pragmatic Lucky Battistuzzi, that rarity of all rarities, a retired hit man. Lucky seems to accept the magically conflicted situation and is a constant source of one-liners.

The mystery of who's behind things turns out a little surprising, so the book qualifies well in that regard. The laughs come easy and often, despite the mayhem. Esther is a chicklit goddess supreme, wanting things normal, but not getting them. And we get introduced to Nelli the Dog, who plays a big part in the third book, but was missing in the first one. Nelli's Max's familiar.

And you know me, I'm a sucker for a book with a dog.

Laura Resnick writes pager-turners, just like her dad Mike. This one's the best yet.

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