“Dr. Altman and the Concubines”
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
Book Review by Joe Kilgore
“But you must admit, despite new age crystalling and a thousand points of light and compassionate conservatism, the majority of us have a mean streak that gets a lot of exercise.”
The cheeky attitude starts on the first page and fortunately doesn’t let up. Sig is a female private investigator in early nineteen-eighties New York City. At age thirty-two, she’s not what one thinks of as a classic gumshoe, and her trenchant observations are frequently more about art than adultery. It’s not that she doesn’t crack wise about sex and salaciousness. She does. It’s just that her ironic insights cover culture as well as crime, and she’s more likely to be packing battery belts for video surveillance than shoulder holsters for shootouts.
Like most good detective novels, this one is full of foul behavior such as rape, suicide, murder, and more, plus the seemingly ever-present and always beguiling blackmail. It’s the latter that looms largest in this tale as Sig is hired by a high-priced psychologist who’s looking at a fifty thousand dollar price tag to keep her clandestine canoodling with a married and even higher-priced colleague out of the public eye. One thing leads (initially inexplicably) to another, and all of a sudden, readers are knee-deep in a well-heeled judge’s descent into societal infamy after being tagged as a perverted sex offender.
Shortell-McSweeney is a wily writer confident enough to take both of those two diverging roads Robert Frost waxed poetic about. Rather than choosing one or the other, she braids them into an interconnected tale of revenge, recrimination, and the frightening prospect that, in one way or another, we all eventually get what we deserve. Her protagonist, prose, and plotting are all primo. Fans will undoubtedly hope for more of Sig’s salty stories to be coming soon.