Dead Rich by Katia Lief

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Dead Rich by Katia Lief

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Good escapist stuff as New York private detectives get caught up in murder and kidnap in Sardinia, with trails linking to high finance in London and New York. Some of the premise is just a bit silly, but put that aside and it's entertaining enough to earn its place.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 338 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780091944797

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Mac Macleary and his wife Karin are retired homicide detectives. He's set up in the private investigation business, while she is trying hard to be a full-time mother, while still having to actively resist having her name on the office name-plate, and not-quite-but-almost resenting not being able to join him on stake-outs.

Also in the agency is Mary, researcher extraordinaire and general office-wallah. Her half-son and Karin's adoptive daughter are typical teenagers and both of them on their good days are more than happy to babysit little Ben, Karin and Mac's natural born toddler son.

They are, all, family.

So when Mac is offered a ridiculously well-paying assignment, which entails a trip to London, and there's a side-offer of a house-swap in Sardinia thrown in to sweeten the deal, it makes sense that they'd all want to go.

That’s the point where (as with all detective fiction) you have to bite your tongue and refrain from saying Oh, come on! Don't be so stupid. You're supposed to be a detective!

Obviously, it's a set-up of some sort.

Mac is in the middle of just another wife-trying-to-prove-the-husband's-affair case, albeit a surprisingly well-paying and well-connected one, and coming up empty, when he gets summoned to a meeting with hot-shot corporate investigators Kroll Consulting. Apparently they need to carry out a super-secret money laundering investigation and would prefer not to use one of their own, who might just be known to the suspect. So far, so plausible.

I'm not sure how Barclays Bank feel about having their name dragged into the story – unless they won some competition of the kind that usually gets your kid's name used for the hero of a comic strip – but it's to their headquarters in London that Mac and Karin travel (having quickly wound up the not-happening-affair case in New York), having Mary and the kids fly on to Sardinia, where they'll all meet up later.

Now, even if the set-up didn't scream set-up at you, wouldn't you be just a tad suspicious if the client came through with the thirty thousand dollar pay cheque when all you've actually done is have dinner with a guy and reported back that he might be a bit of a berk, but not actually likely to be on the take? When the money is paid, without some much as an are you sure? ? Even when the clients are wealth managers with a totally different concept of value? Wouldn't you?

Maybe life is simpler in homicide.

Then of course, there is the simple fact that with all the modern technology at your finger-tips you can't get hold of Mary, or either of the kids. They're teenagers. Not only will they be glued to their phones, they'll spot a charge-point at three miles! To be fair, Karin is worried. Getting more worried. Verging on panic. But it does only take one phone call to set her mind at rest…

But then they get to the holiday home… and find it empty.

There's a lot about Dead Rich that will stretch your ability to suspend disbelief.

If you can't do so, then you might as well forget it. Analysed realistically you could decide that it is just plain silly. There are lots of scenes that would have you despairing of the intelligence of the characters, almost to the pantomimic need to yell look behind you – or wanting to call social services, because really they shouldn't be out on their own, never mind in charge of children and kittens.

The other side of that is, if you can just accept the unrealism of it all, accept that highly intelligent, well-trained people do stupid things and despite all of their experience have a tendency to trust a lot of folk they don't know from Adam, and never stop to think who might get hurt in the process, well, then you get a decent thriller for your money.

You get to globe-trot from the steaming New York summer, to the cool of the English north-west and via a touch of up-market London, into the oppressive heat of the southern Mediterranean. You get murder and kidnapping and escape and people on the run and shootings and family connections that may or may not be as broken as they seem. You get policemen and 'policemen'. You get high office and corruption and trust and doubt. You get DNA evidence that cannot prove what it appears to. You get high-speed car chases (and of course dodgy transmission just to add to the cliff-hanging fear of it) along switch-back mountain-to-ocean-drop roads. You get high-finance and inherited wealth.

After all, it all comes back to money in the end. Why the crooks do what they do. And, largely, also, why the good-guys do what they do.

And along the way, people have to die. And people who don't have to die, get killed anyway.

It hits hard and fast, with a few moments of genuine suspense, a lot of domestic back-drop which feels unnecessary until you get near the end and discover that despite yourself you've grown attached to these people and actually care about what happens next. I was surprised by how emotionally I responded to the out-play, given that for the most part it's just an enjoyable escapist unbelievable jaunt through the badlands of the Camorra, which reach far beyond the island of their birth.

Despite myself, I enjoyed it.

Rated in the context of the genre it earns its four stars.

For more crime with an Italian link you could do a lot worse than Cabal by Michael Dibdin Or for insights into the real Sardinia (albeit from a little while ago) we could recommend Accabadora by Michela Murgia and Silvester Mazzarella (Translator)

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