RESOLVED. By Robert K. Tanenbaum. Atria Books. 343 pages. $26.
The dissonance between the protagonists is a recurring theme in his 15 thrillers. Karp, New York's chief assistant district attorney, relies on rules and laws, but with humanity and humor. Marlene is also a lawyer and a former prosecutor. But as a private detective, she reaches into her organized-crime roots for justice. She is directly responsible for 34 homicides, and is an unindicted conspirator in a mass homicide. As she puts it, “Half of an entire family wiped out because I was enraged that some hillbilly moron shot my kid. So I sent for my Asian gangster pals. Kill them all. I actually said that. And they did.”
The pair have three children, each as complex and individualistic as their parents.
As this novel opens, Ciampi is out on Long Island's north fork, a delightful area of farms and vineyards where she trains drug and bomb-sniffing dogs as well as dog bodyguards, like her drooly mastiff, Gog. It's a self-imposed exile, a penance. She feels responsible for visiting havoc on her family via her escapades. Karp, she thinks, would prefer a suburban life. He thinks that, too, intermittently.
Their daughter, Lucy, has left school in Boston to hold the New York loft-life together in her mom's absence. Everyone tries to understand. Everyone resents mom.
Ciampi is back in town because retired police detective Pete Balducci, who had worked with her, was blown to smithereens. It happened as he opened his front door and reached for the newspaper.
It was no random killing but a segue from the brutal murders of a psychopathic killer's ex-wife and her daughter, and the fatal bombing of a witness against him. Balducci had arrested the psycho. One problem: He had supposedly died in prison weeks before.
There are a couple of vengence plots at work here. The Karp-Ciampi axis is in the middle of both a psychopath's payback fantasies and those of an equally malicious terrorist kingpin prosecuted after 9/11.
How this duo saves themselves and one another is a big piece of this novel of surprising turns, sharp edges, smart dialog, precise, ugly, but funny characterizations of life in the criminal and homeless classes, and curdling bloodshed.
Running like bass strums beneath the riffs of the daily fare of crime and punishment are this couple's efforts to decide if they are a couple.
Tanenbaum's skill as a writer has grown with each of his Karp-Ciampi thrillers. There is no one else in the genre as sophisticated in dialog and no one who so reliably and so well captures criminal and political thinking and the solace of bemusement.