Oct 28, 2008

If women scorned are frightening, are lesbians scarier than the Russian mob? Let's find out!

The Alibi Man
by Tami Hoag
Published: 2007

Kelsey requested The Alibi Man, and here I am, aiming to please.
She was a vision. She was a siren. She was a nightmare. She was dead. Now he needed her to disappear. And he knew just how to make it happen. The Palm Beach elite go to great lengths to protect their own—and their own no longer includes Elena Estes. Once upon a time a child of wealth and privilege, Elena turned her back on that life. Betrayed and disillusioned by those closest to her, she chose the life of an undercover cop, the hunt for justice her own personal passion. Then a tragic, haunting mistake ended her career. Now Elena exists on the fringes of her old life, training horses for a living. But a shocking event is about to draw her back into the painful vortex she’s fought so hard to leave behind.

First she finds the body—a young woman used, murdered, and dumped in a canal. Not just a victim, but a friend. As Elena delves into her dead friend’s secret life, she discovers ties not only to the Russian mob but also to a group of powerful and wealthy Palm Beach bad boys known for giving each other alibis to cover a multitude of sins. A group that includes a man Elena once knew very well—her former fiancé, Bennett Walker, a man she knows has already escaped justice at least once in his life.

Finding her friend’s killer will put Elena at odds with her old life, with her new lover, and with herself. But she is determined to reveal the truth—a truth that will shock Palm Beach society to its core, and could very well get her killed.
I should say I'm not a cop drama person. Or a mystery person. This means, of course, that I will never review a Dick Francis book for this blog unless, you know, someone desperately wants me too and then, be assured, I will keep putting it off until I inevitably forget someone requested it. So please, just don't bother. Anyway, cop dramas. I don't watch them. I don't read them. Yet I am all about FBI drama, for some reason. Give me a disgruntled FBI agent and I am there with bells on. Because where a disgruntled FBI agent is, wackiness invariably ensues. Right? Naturally. I didn't watch all of those years of The X-Files and learn nothing.

So, The Alibi Man is a sequel to some book called Dark Horse. The events of Dark Horse are mentioned repeatedly, but are not important to this story so I will ignore them for this review. I have no idea where Dark Horse takes place in the timeline here, but it happened and people remember it and so forth. What we need to know is that Elena is our main character. She tells her portion of the story in the first person, so we can feel her angst and childhood trauma repeatedly. Elena is adopted (trauma ensues) by a rich family (more trauma) that never knew how to love her properly/blamed her for reminding them they weren't fertile (more trauma) before her fiancé raped someone and asked her for an alibi (more trauma) and she said no. Then her father, a defense attorney, gets her fiancé off even when she takes the stand against him (more trauma) and of course leads to her walking out of everyone's lives forever and ever. More trauma. THEN she becomes a cop, is promoted to detective, accidentally gets someone killed, is randomly dragged behind a car, and quits that career to move on as a horse trainer for her BFF gay friend named Sean. However, she does not appear to actually be training any horses during this book. That isn't traumatic enough for Elena, because mainly she's busy angsting about how traumatic her life is while trying to save humanity from the evil clutches of the elite and her father.

So, that's Elena. She's a boatload of fun, you see? I much preferred Detective Landry, who also gets some of the spotlight in this story in the form of third person, making this book a grab bag of conflicting personalities. Landry is Elena's sort of ex-boyfriend, in that they had sex a lot and then she dumped him when he wanted to have an actual relationship. Elena is no good at actual relationships, and Landry is way too good for her, so it works out. Only Landry doesn't know this yet. Eventually, I blatantly admitted to myself that I kept reading this book for Landry's portions of the story, because he's just hilarious in a bad ass detective way. For instance:

Weiss: "Where've you been?"
Landry: "Why? You want me to go back out so you can have a moment of privacy to whack off with a dead girl's underwear?"
Weiss: "Fuck you, Landry."
Landry: "Fuck yourself."
Weiss: "You were with Estes. Was she giving you a blowjob or what?"
Landry: "She was giving me information, dickhead. About the vic's movements Saturday night."

And this conversation would have kept going had a "relative" of the victim not called the apartment they were standing in, giving Landry the opportunity to talk to a crazed Russian who's going through the stages of grief as only a Russian can while basically not caring about anyone's emotions. It was a good move on Tami's part to break into Elena's angstfest with Landry, because I think it's obvious by now that I would have dropped this book halfway through if someone hadn't taken over the story from Elena occasionally.

Anyway, let's get to the actual story now. Elena's coworker, Irena, died and her body was dumped in the swamp in Florida. Elena, being the main character, finds the body while she's off riding one of Sean's expensive horses that seem to do nothing but eat and act bored. She calls Landry and he comes out there just in time to completely empty his firearm into an alligator that attacks the body. Although that doesn't quite do the job, so one of his officers runs up with a shotgun and that more or less does the trick. Anyway, angst angst angst for Elena. Get the hell out of my crime scene from Landry. Elena runs off and starts to snoop through Irena's apartment, and Landry knows full well she's doing this, but doesn't outwardly care. So Elena is off channeling all her cop rage into finding whoever killed Irena, angsting the whole time. It becomes apparent that Irena likes nice things, and Tami takes some time here to name drop about five designer names. Everyone's all, whoa, for a groom she's got a lot of Dior sunglasses. It must be the Russian mob! Or maybe it's just all the wealthy people around here. Or something. So Elena snoops, finds out about this girl named Lisbeth that works for this Brody person, and runs over there to traumatize someone else. She completely accomplishes this, and Lisbeth, who is from "Bumfuck, Michigan" starts her downward spiral.

Meanwhile Landry talks with some Russian guy who claims to be Irena's uncle, but is in fact Alexi, Florida's most ruthless mobster. Eventually, Alexi finds Elena, because she's the main character, and tells her that she's going to find the killer of his beloved Irena, who appeared not care about him, so I guess this is the fall out of his obsession. Whatever. Eventually Alexi totally loses it in a morgue after Landry shows him Irena's dead body, falls to the ground sobbing as Landry basically rolls his eyes and probably wishes he could pistol whip the stupid guy in the face. So that's Alexi.

Eventually we get into this Alibi Club, a group of men that cover their asses whenever someone gets a little too involved with a prostitute or cocaine or possibly murder. One of these guys is Bennett Walker, Elena's rapist ex-fiancé and another is Juan Barbaro, a nice polo player who is in the club but has some semblance of morals. Barbaro and Elena sort of hit it off, but she's all accusatory when he finally tells her the real story and that goes no where fast. Essentially, the real story is that Irena goes to this club for Brody's birthday, goes to an after party with the whole Alibi Club, gives every one of them a blowjob and basically partakes in what I suppose is a giant orgy. Barbaro wasn't present for the blowjobs and orgy, but he did see Lisbeth walking around outside the house. Dun dun DUN! Shocking! No one pays attention to this until the very end, however. Because everyone suspects Bennett Walker of being the asshole, and he is an asshole, and he was the one who dumped Irena's body because he randomly found her dead in his house. Alexi somehow becomes convinced without Elena's help that Bennett did the killing, shoves him in the trunk of a car, drives them both out to a warehouse, tortures Bennett for a while, gives Elena the opportunity to castrate him while unwittingly handing her a weapon that she uses against him, and he gets shot several times by the police who just happen to show up at the perfect time. Only while Alexi is busy totally losing it, he shoots Bennett in the head, killing him. So that's that.

Moving on to Lisbeth, she almost gets her ass handed to her by Bennett for "talking too much" because about halfway through the book Bennett genuinely believes he killed Irena and just can't remember, starting his downward spiral to the point where he kills a valet kid who's blackmailing him, right before Alexi shoves him in a trunk. Bennett tries to drown her in the swamp, but somehow does not succeed. So Elena finds Lisbeth while she's snooping around Lisbeth's apartment (she does a lot of breaking and entering, feeling justified the whole time), discovers her shaking and covered in mud and whatever else, and insists Lisbeth go to the hospital. Lisbeth doesn't want to go, but screw that. She's going. So Elena traumatizes her some more by grabbing her hair, yanking her to a car by her hair, and then backhanding anyone who gets in her way. Seriously. Then she traumatizes her some more by barking questions at her about Irena. Elena needs to be gaged and abandoned in a coal mine or something equally effective. She's not impressive, and I don't care how many daddy issues she has (which everyone knows about because she's constantly telling everyone how much her dad sucks). It turns out that Lisbeth is a lesbian (but not, because no one from Michigan would ever be a lesbian because they're raised all wholesome in Michigan) and was in love with Irena and Irena I suppose decided to have lesbian sex with her at some point or another, totally confusing things, and then when Irena got pregnant with Bennett Walker's kid (she assumes, anyway), she decides she's going to tell Bennett after this orgy and he'll divorce his crazy wife, marry her, and Lisbeth will be out in the cold. Or maybe Irena and Lisbeth can continue their thing and Bennett would watch, or something. While Irena is pregnant. Like...that's totally not going to fly for someone raised in Michigan. Lisbeth follows Irena to the after party, watches the orgy from a window, gets completely upset and then kills Irena when she comes out to have a cigarette, choking her with a leather necklace while she whispers "I loved you!" Yes, you've probably seen some version of this story before. We all have.

SO. Then Lisbeth can't take it anymore, walks out to where Bennett dumped Irena's body, although I frankly don't think she'd exactly know where the body was found, gets naked, slits her wrists, and wanders out into the swamp so the alligators can come kill her. Nice suicide, Lisbeth. Landry and Elena find her, but because Landry is awesome and Elena is insane, she breaks down into tears before she even finds the body, leaving the actual work to Landry.

Then Elena turns down offers to make her story into a TV movie, sort of might consider getting back together with Landry, and watches the sunset. The freaking end.

  • It occurred to me as I finished the book somewhere over Illinois, that Elena is almost exactly like Anita Blake the Vampire Hunter. You know how annoying that woman is? Just put another twenty years on Anita, give her a couple of morals, subtract the harem of long haired possibly gay, but straight for Anita men, and you've got Elena. This disturbed me, and makes me wish the whole snappy mary sue trend in these sort of books would end relatively soon. These people aren't sexy or interesting. They are self absorbed and have enough issues to justify serious psychiatric help.
  • This book takes place in the world of polo. So, you know, there was polo in this book. Elena is described as a horse trainer, but I think she's more of a groom because she's sure as hell not really doing anything else besides feeding horses and trying to solve crime.
  • And Landry is awesome. This book would have been better if it had all been in the third person, and if Landry had been the main character. At one point he shoots vodka, beats up a giant Russian guy, totally loses it, threatens a whole bar with a gun, throws up, completely turns on a woman, rejects the turned on woman, and gets what he set out to do. All in that order, in a matter of three pages.
If Landry is involved in Dark Horse, I'll read it. If he isn't, well, I don't think it's really necessary.


Courtney Rottgering said...

Landry's in Dark Horse, which is equally sort of twisted and stupid, also with lots of B&E.

Monique said...

I hate Tami Hoag but I love her all at the same time. I have read six of her books, excluding this one. She somehow writes the most intreguing male characters ever.

Mara said...

Yes, I noticed that he was in it, so I suppose I'll have to read Dark Horse. I can already see myself skimming through Elena's angsting in favor of his sections. Perhaps I'll do a partial review.

Kelsey said...

YAY! I was excited to see this and it was better than I expected. The only thing that keeps this out of the swamp (harhar) is Landry.