Fiercely independent, thirty-something Roxy Abruzzo is a hard-working, fast-talking, nymphomaniac niece of an aging Pittsburgh mafia boss. Despite her family background and sexual proclivities, she tries to make a decent living on the right side of the law.
Roxy, her loyal brindle pit bull Rooney, and “Nooch” Santonucci, her refrigerator-sized devoted sidekick, drive around decaying neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and its tony suburbs in a “Monster Truck,” salvaging architecture. The exodus of much of the steel industry from Pittsburgh has resulted in empty factories and warehouses, abandoned and aging homes --- and lots of architectural finds. Before buildings and residences are demolished, Roxy and Nooch show up in her work truck and buy and haul off re-salable items.
While the architectural salvage business gives Roxy an appreciation for quality buildings and provides an honest living, business isn’t exactly making her rich. As a single mom of a teenage daughter enrolled in a Catholic high school, Roxy is barely able to pay Nooch, meet expenses and cover her daughter’s private-school tuition. Waiting in the wings is Uncle Carmine, who’s always trying to lure Roxy into the shady “family business” with the promise of financial security.
But Roxy is determined to make her own way on her own terms. One day, while hauling off salvaged items from an estate that has been torched by the jealous wife of one of Pittsburgh’s heirs to a massive steel fortune, Roxy spots a marble statue of a Greek god. Partially concealed by a tangle of ivory in a flower bed, its right arm is missing, but Roxy immediately recognizes it as being valuable. Knowing the charred mansion is slated for demolition, she decides to save the statue from being destroyed in the blast.
While the demolition team sets up for the big day, Roxy crosses paths with the dimwitted Delaney brothers, who are doing some salvage work of their own. She also runs into the estate’s owner, Julius Hyde, and has a conversation with him. Later, after Julius is found murdered on the estate grounds, the police are curious about Roxy’s conversation. And the cops aren’t the only ones interested in her business; others, including members of the Hyde family, want to know what happened to the marble statue.
Rounding out the story is an interesting cast of characters. Aunt Loretta is a big-busted, mini-skirt-wearing lawyer and widow who looks out for Roxy and her daughter, Sage. Patrick Flynn is an ex-Marine, gourmet chef and Roxy’s high school flame. The uber-rich Hyde clan is full of assorted characters, most notably 92-year-old matriarch Dorothy and her granddaughter, Arden, a college student with good intentions but a few bad habits.
Dealing with the murder of Julius Hyde and the valuable statue aren't Roxy’s only dilemmas. On the homefront, Sage, who is like her mother in many ways, has a few problems of her own. As the body count rises, the tension mounts, the stakes are raised, and the danger for Roxy and her loved ones increases.
Pittsburgh-dwelling Roxy Abruzzo is sassy and fresh. She’s a big-haired, big-hearted hero who doesn’t make the best choices in men (and who definitely doesn’t have an immaculate reputation) but who is not to be messed with or taken lightly. OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION --- the first installment in Nancy Martin’s newest mystery series --- is a fun read with unusual characters, an intimate setting and a message worth noting: families aren’t always perfect, but the good ones are filled with love and are there when you need them.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (email@example.com) on January 14, 2011