Top critical review
Muddled mess of a mystery
November 24, 2018
Casino Girl by Leslie Wolfe is the second in a series of stories featuring a female British detective who somehow winds up in Las Vegas and has recently been reassigned to the homicide unit with a new partner just a week ago. Apparently the events of the first book happened during that first week. The author drops dozens of references to those events (including our hero having sex with her new partner) although it's never really clear why those events matter to this story other than as part of detective Baxter's tortured psyche. The current story, told partly in the first person voice of the hero, centers around the sudden and unexplained death of an exotic dancer/waitress in the high-roller area of an fictional high-end casino. The cops think it's some kind of poison, but there is no apparent motive for anyone and even halfway through the book there is only speculation about who might be a suspect.
The main character here is emotional, cries a lot, has sexual fantasies about her partner, and is apparently able to hide a phone, a lock pick set, and a gun inside her bra while wearing a sexy evening dress. She has a ton of emotional baggage, is both trying to shield her partner from examination by internal affairs and also trying to decide whether she believes him about not being involved in the theft of a kilo of cocaine. She becomes instantly emotionally attached to the victim and her younger sister, who is potentially a victim of abuse by their mother's boyfriend whose subplot doesn't seem to add anything to the overall story. Her inner thoughts are hard to follow and ultimately she is not an easy character to get behind.
The overall plot is convoluted and complex, but what makes this novel difficult to read is the lack of attention to detail. Early on, whoever is behind the murder sends in a professional arsonist to burn down the morgue, thereby destroying any forensic evidence that might be under investigation and might lead back to the killer. The Coroner, a close friend of our hero, is in the room and fights the bad guy, only to be left behind when he runs and throws a grenade into the gasoline-soaked space. The coroner crawls into a body-storage slot, the building burns down around her -- and she walks away with barely a scratch and is back to work in new space the next day. Really? The heat, smoke, and lack of oxygen in the center of a raging fire didn't kill her why?
There is also in this book perhaps the worst courtroom scene ever written. Everything about the legal procedure is wrong, including the judge ordering the prosecution to interrupt its case so that the defense attorney can call our hero as a rebuttal witness in the morning after her lover/partner testifies that afternoon. It's not that hard to find a lawyer who can give some technical advice, but this was just awful. Then, our hero decides to go breaking-and-entering at the home of the suspect, the night before her testimony, aided by a tech wizard back at the department who is able (somehow) to hack into the perp's home security system remotely and both monitor his movements and disable the security system. It's helpful to the plot, but just impossible.
The author doesn't even really seem to have a grasp on how casinos work in Las Vegas.
In short, it's very disappointing. The guts of a good story are here, but the execution is lacking.