Shelley Cooper continues the saga of the Garibaldi siblings from Pittsburgh in Laura and the Lawman, a fun novel that delves into the many forms of deception.
Laura Langley was an art history teacher in New York City when her innocent husband and small son were gunned down in a drug deal gone sour. After a year of floundering, she directed her rage to something constructive. Joining the NYPD, she eventually moved to undercover vice, and now has assumed the role of Ruby O’Toole, art appraiser.
Laura has been placed with an auction house in Pittsburgh. The NYPD and local authorities believe the auction house to be responsible for much of the east coast drug trade. As Ruby, she is totally amoral and posing as the auction house owner’s lover as well.
Detective Tonio Garibaldi has been educated and primed by the Pittsburgh PD to become an auctioneer and lands a job at the gallery as Michael Corsi, an ex-con, appearing to be trying to make a somewhat honest living. Tonio’s and Laura’s respective bosses have decided that it will be safer for each of them not to know the other is a cop as well.
The attraction between them is of course instant, reluctant and not acted upon because each sees in the other the reprehensible qualities personifying what they are sworn to defeat. Cooper does a brilliant job of advancing the story line at the same time she is balancing the hate/reluctant lust relationship between Antonio/Michael and Ruby/Laura.
Each begins to see the inconsistencies of the other’s character as they are placed in close working conditions appraising estates in the area.
Although the reader always knows where this story is headed, the fun is in the arriving. Being able to sustain the many faces of deception and the sexual and plot tension requires a truly talented writer. Cooper handles self-deception, deception for hire, and deception to protect in a light and deft manner. For each principal, although their present situation may have evolved from angst, she is careful not to burden the reader with too many repetitive references to it.
The dialogue can be funny and, without fail, reflects the depth of Cooper’s characters. And for a small bonus, the reader is treated to a glimpse of the highly competitive estate sale environment.
Laura and the Lawman has my vote so far for the best in the Garibaldi series, and is highly recommended for late summer reading.