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Onyx reviews: Void Moon by Michael Connelly

A crime author has an inherently difficult task ahead of him when he chooses a criminal as his protagonist. Some, like Lawrence Block, tackle the problem by lacing the story with humor and placing the main character in funny and improbable situations.

Michael Connelly has elected not to do this. Void Moon is serious crime fiction. His leading lady, Cassidy (Cassie) Black, is on parole after serving five years of a sentence for her part in a burglary in a Las Vegas hotel. Not only did Cassie lose her liberty after that robbery, she also lost her life partner Max. In fact, her jail term was for manslaughter, even though she was twenty floors down when he fell from the penthouse suite. She was culpable for his death because it occurred during the commission of another crime to which she was an accomplice.

Cassie has been a well-behaved parolee. She has a job selling Porsches thanks to a benevolent ex-con, after getting her parole transferred from Las Vegas to California. Events, the significance of which are only revealed toward the end of the book, are pushing Cassie off track, however. Her parole officer is becoming suspicious that Cassie is no longer a low-maintenance case.

Cassie is itching to do one more job. A big one which will let her escape into oblivion. Off to Tahiti, perhaps, the place where desert is ocean. Cassie reactivates her old network and becomes embroiled in a new hi-tech caper that returns her to the scene of the botched job several years earlier. Cassie has been warned to beware of the "void moon," an astrological term which refers to a brief period when the moon is between constellations. On the night her job is to go down, the moon will spend sixteen minutes between Cancer and Leo. It is a bad luck time during which anything wrong can happen. There are many similarities between this caper and her last, and things begin to go wrong very quickly.

Once Cassie has finished the job, she discovers that she got away with a lot more than she expected. Over two million dollars, mob money intended to grease palms in Las Vegas. Her robbery has triggered alarms all over the organized crime world and she is soon being pursued back to Los Angeles by private investigator Jack Karsh, a sleezy, disreputable and unscrupulous man who has so many bodies hidden in the desert that he is unsure of where to bury the next one without accidentally digging up another.

Void Moon is modern crime at its best. Both Cassie and Karsh are equipped with all of the latest gadgets and know how to use them. Cassie has hidden cameras and remote surveillance gear, while Karsh knows how to locate culprits from a cell phone number and has access to Global Positioning Satellite tracking devices. It is a battle of the wits as Karsh pursues Cassie relentlessly, discovering her deepest secrets and destroying anyone he encounters along the way.

Connelly's novel is a well-crafted suspense tale. He crams a little too much sudden revelation into the final confrontation, linking up characters in credible but unexpected and unnecessary ways. The particular accomplishment of this novel, though, is that he keeps the reader firmly on Cassie's side, even when it appears that her crimes may be worse than simply robbing rich gamblers of their winnings. Both Cassie and Karsh are deep, complex and fully realized characters who drive this action adventure to a satisfying conclusion.

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