In her ninth Carlotta Carlyle mystery, Linda Barnes sends the
red-headed, six-foot tall private investigator undercover on a Big
Dig. The place is Boston, " … the Big Dig, formally known as
the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project, [is] the biggest
urban construction project in the history of the modern world, no
less, a mega-dollar boondoggle to some, a brilliant and farsighted
plan for Boston's transportation future to others."
In response to a call to the fraud tip line, Carlotta is hired by
her buddy ex-cop cum security businessman, to ferret out what is
really happening on the various construction site locations. When
she gets to her third job site, she is hired as a secretary, which
puts her in the office and allows her to snoop in files and
records. But, the CFO and CEO of Horgan's Construction are having
problems that far exceed those on the site. At first, Carlyle
thinks they are having marital difficulties; then, she slowly
learns that they are caught up in a far more nefarious plot.
Carlotta, who is not above moonlighting as a cab driver when she
needs to pick up a few bucks, decides to take a second assignment:
find a missing woman named Veronica. And here is where the book
begins to fall apart.
Linda Barnes is known for her gritty noir-like mysteries, but in
the BIG DIG, she asks readers to buy into a truly unbelievable plot
full of holes you could drive an earth mover through. And, by the
time she delivers the denouement, so much ancillary activity has
taken place that it is very difficult to take anything that happens
In a previous book Carlyle is shot, and she keeps referring to her
scar and the fact that it interferes with her mobility.
Unfortunately, the BIG DIG has the same problem. It is stagnant and
full of annoying redundancies, not the best Barnes can offer by a
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 21, 2011