The Hot Pink Farmhouse
A Berger and Mitry Mystery
Mitch stammered, stunned. It had just hit him. He had not happened upon just any old wino. The man standing down in the bin was Dorset's most famous and reclusive resident, Wendell Frye, the man who had single-handedly redefined modern American sculpture...His towering, breathtaking scrap-metal sculptures graced plazas and parks throughout the world, his name echoing alongside that of Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi ad Ellsworth Kelly...If the art critic from Mitch's paper somehow got a chance to meet him, she would, well, plotz.. And here Mitch was standing in a dumpster talking to him about Abbott and Costello.
Transplanted New York film critic Mitch Berger is discovering a whole new world in the idyllic atmosphere of wealthy Dorset, Connecticut, not the least of which is his new love. That's Resident State Trooper Desiree Mitry, beautiful, bright, and strong-minded. Des has transferred out of her position as the highest-ranking black woman in the State Police Homicide department to give more time to the art for which she has a sure talent.
Shortly after Mitch's encounter with "Hangtown" Frye in the town dump, his new friend suffers the worst blow of his life - his beloved daughter "Moose" is killed when her sister's car, which she was driving, explodes. It's very soon clear that the explosion was no accident, and Des, as one more familiar with the community than the state cop in charge, takes an advisory part in the investigation.
As one of the very few Dorset citizens with whom Frye will have any truck, Mitch is involved in two directions - as a good friend willing to help as he can around the dilapidated farmhouse that is Frye's ancestral home, and as the devoted, if unlikely, lover of the police officer unofficially but very actively on the case.
Meanwhile, the old town is coming to a boil over the question of a new public elementary school, one that will be built with contributions from a developer with nothing but good wishes for the education of the local children, and coincidentally a program of healthful outdoor living for those who can afford the homes he will build on the old school property. Hangtown and Mitch are among the dispute's dubious. In a climax that is a realistic and frightening version of a tour through an amusement park "haunted" house, the film critic and his policewoman love come close to tragedy.
Readers met these "wonderfully drawn characters [Susan Isaacs] and "best buddy team to come along in years" [Jeffrey Deaver] in Handler's first book of the series, The Cold Blue Blood. Now, in The Hot Pink Farmhouse, Handler carries on their sharp, inimitable and lively adventures to further delight his readers.
Edgar winner Handler brings back odd couple Desiree "Des" Mitry and Mitch Berger for a second enjoyable round of murder and mayhem (after 2001's The Cold Blue Blood) in the normally peaceful environs of coastal Dorset, Conn. Mitch, a New York City film critic and author of two movie reference books, is spending his first autumn on Big Sister, a private island off Dorset. Des, black, beautiful and a former homicide investigator for the Connecticut state police, has opted for such mundane duties as directing traffic, allowing her to pursue art classes at the famed Dorset Academy. Both get caught up in a squabble that pits pro-development locals against those who want Dorset to remain as it is. They also get trapped in the orbit of eccentric sculptor Wendell "Hangtown" Frye, his two wildly different daughters and murder. Handler's mix of smalltown pleasures and developers who plot to destroy the setting that preserves those pleasures is a familiar one. Nonetheless, the author's skill at depicting everyone from young children to aging adults and investing his characters with delightful quirks or grievous flaws makes this a superior read. The romance between Des and Mitch, an ill-kept secret in tiny Dorset, and bits of film trivia woven smoothly into the narrative add zest. FYI:The Mystery Booksellers Association nominatedThe Cold Blue Blood for a Dilys Award as one "the most fun to sell" books of the year.