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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Blood Kills, the fourth in a mystery series by Nanci Rathbun, is a complicated intrigue involving the Russian Mafia (Bratva), war crimes in Chechnya, the Milwaukee Mafia, wills, testaments, lots of money, lots of blood, and the miracle of DNA. It will keep you guessing and turning the pages all the way to its conclusion. But, tying it all together magnificently is an ongoing but hands-off love affair between the protagonist and narrator Angie Bonaparte, daughter of a once mob consiglieri and now an elite private investigator, and a gruff, frustrated detective, Ted Wukowski, whom she refers to only by his surname. It’s an Italian/Polish connection—she calls him “caro,” he calls her “kochana.” The two have been keeping legally separate because of past technical indiscretions during an investigation. In twelve days (the timespan of this novel), their separation mandate will expire, and through all the plot machinations, readers are titillated by their clandestine gestures of affection, and eagerly await the sure-to-be upcoming re-consummation.
Blood Kills is an intelligently written mystery for intelligent readers. But for me, the greatest joy is in the characters Nanci Rathbun creates. Predominate is Angelina Bonaparte, height-challenged, a Seinfeld fan, food and wine connoisseur, crossword doer, immaculate dresser, former librarian, Audi owner, resident of a condo with a Lake Michigan view, and over-the-top-competent professional who narrates the tale in the first person. An intriguing choice, however, by our author is that she switches the point of view at crucial points to Artur, a Russian expatriate, whom from the beginning we know to be the villain of the piece, though no one else knows it. Not that we know, of course, all the details until the end. Angie is a masterful creation in author Rathbun’s “fictional universe.” An insightful, brilliant mind, though willing to cheat on the separation mandate with Wukowski—she’s attentive to the most appealing underwear ensemble each morning as she prepares for what secret interlude may occur with the man she loves. The author is kind to her readers, too, with short chapters, crisp and flawless prose, and even chapter quotations ranging from Aeschylus to Conan Doyle, from Einstein to Confucius—each quote setting up the chapter to come. In the simplest terms, Blood Kills is an all-round magnificent pleasure to read.