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Mambo Queens

Private dick Scotty Bradley's back again

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Milton Scotty Bradley is just your average former personal trainer, sometimes go-go dancer, psychic, soft-hearted beefcake amateur private dick in a three-way, committed-but-open relationship. His love triangle is completed by beefcake retired FBI special agent Frank Sobieski and (say it) beefcake veteran private dick Colin Cioni, the latter two into voyeurism and role-play. Together, dressed in skintight Zorro costumes (okay, just that one time), these three special amigos cum private dicks (okay, I'll stop) are the New Orleans office of the Blackledge Agency, partners in crime-solving (most of it aimed at keeping Scotty out of jail) and decadence.

Okay, two of the above details turn out not to be true, but I won't spoil for you the surprises in Greg Herren's Mardi Gras Mambo, the third in his series of Scotty Bradley mysteries. This time, Scotty's Ecstasy dealer turns up dead. Scotty, who was the last person to see him, is suspected by Police Detective Venus Casanova (seriously, that's her name). And the Goddess, who frequently speaks to Scotty, is warning that Frank and Colin are in danger.

Yeah, it's all a little ridiculous, and I haven't even told you about the plot points involving Chechnyan rebels, Middle Eastern terrorists and the Russian ballet. Once the mystery gets spinning, the story feels less like a hard-boiled detective story than a French farce. And the whole "psychic detective" angle feels like a bit of a cheat, allowing a string of deus-ex-machina revelations that no one actually has to puzzle through.

It's all just a little too easy: like detective porn in which the dick (sorry!) catches the bad guys because that's what the detective is supposed to do in a detective story, not because he had the smarts and/or grit to restore order to the crimson chaos. As Scotty himself says, after most of the mystery has been revealed, "It was pretty obvious to me at first that the federal agents couldn't believe anyone could be as stupid as I apparently was. It took hours to convince them, rather humiliatingly, that, yes, indeed, I was that trusting and naïve and stupid."

But then again ... there's something so very sweet about this detective naif who hates violence, forgives his nemeses and would prefer to spend his time dancing with shirtless hunks instead of cracking the heads of bad guys. A soft-boiled detective, let's call him, one whose symbiotic/adversarial relationship with the police finds its tension in Scotty's liberal sense of mercy and lawful justice (antiquated drug laws notwithstanding) rather than a vigilante's bitter need for supra-judicial vengeance.

I'm not sure Scotty's the guy I'd want on my case if I were in trouble, but he'd be a lot more fun at a party than your typical private dick.

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