Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crime Fiction: Hotel No Tell by Daphne Uviller

Daphne Uviller introduced Zephyr Zuckerman to readers in 2009’s excellent Super in the City, which found that feisty young woman becoming the superintendent of her parents’ Greenwich Village apartment building. In the course of that story, she coped with mechanical problems, crime and the arrival of a new boyfriend.

It’s great to have Zephyr back in Hotel No Tell (Bantam); we can always use another good mystery laced with smart-ass New York humor.

Now Zephyr, struggling at 31 with the demands of adulthood, is completing her probationary period as a detective with the city’s Special Investigations Commission. Not quite a cop, Zephyr goes undercover as a concierge at a hotel, looking for a missing $100,000.

The hotel is full of characters; one of Uviller’s strengths is her ability to create distinct oddball types who remain believable. For example, the desk clerk devotes his time to trying to score free products from manufacturers. One of the guests is an elderly Yiddish-speaking Japanese woman with a lot of attitude. Zephyr has a close friend who runs a wedding-planning service, but believes some of her brides die because she is cursed. And so on.

Zephyr eventually finds a link from the hotel to a human egg donation service, which assists women with in vitro fertilization. But that only seems to make things murkier. And since her cop boyfriend has moved out (because she refuses to consider having children), and her closest friends are struggling with the demands of marriage and parenthood and careers, hanging around the fertility service stirs up personal as well as professional concerns for our heroine.

Nothing in Zephyr Zuckerman’s life is easy. And since she is not a passive character, she is sometimes caught between a rock and a hard place. That’s part of the fun here. Wherever she turns, she finds angst and complications.

We eventually find out about the missing 100 grand, but it’s only one thread in an engaging fabric. New York City itself is a character in this story, and it is large, untidy, throbbing with energy and big enough to accommodate all sorts of people. Author Uviller has captured some of that … more power to her. ◊

Roberta Alexander is an editor and mystery reviewer in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

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Blogger dick adler said...

Thanks for the tip-off. I loved the first book, and will now head for Kindle for this one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 1:56:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Daphne said...

Thanks, Roberta, for this amazing review. I feel like enjoyed the book the way I intended for it to be enjoyed. I so appreciate you taking the time to read it and think about it!

Friday, April 29, 2011 at 9:33:00 AM PDT  

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