Raphael, Lev. “Hot Rocks: A Nick Hoffman Mystery”, Perseverance Press, 2007.
Hot, “Hot Rocks”
The Nick Hoffman series has always had social observations and “Hot Rocks” is no different. This time the venue is a health club for the wealthy and the observations are wittier and funnier than ever. The seventh in the series, Lev Raphael does not disappoint a bit—in fact he outdoes the others. The club is brimming with those obsessed with toning their bodies and what an ideal setting for a murder.
If any of you belong to a health club, you are familiar with the types there as well as the aura that pervades, The personalities run the gamut and what a wonderful setting for a crime like murder. We know that health clubs foster jealousy and envy which can become rage quite easily. Raphael is, of course, aware that not everyone is into fitness so he gives us descriptions that are explicit.
Nick Hoffman a SUM professor, like myself, is an academic. Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading his adventures when he acts as a detective.
After the murder has been committed, the list of suspects includes trainers, wives whose bodies need work, club members who are possessed of arrogance and other wealthy characters. None of these are what they appear. Nick does not act alone. He has a fellow detective, Juno Dromgoole. Together they are quite a team—especially when they banter and show how ambivalently they feel for each other.
Nick has just returned from a Caribbean vacation and he knows he has to get back in shape afterwards. He goes, with his partner Stefan to Michigan Muscle but his workout routine suddenly is interrupted when he finds a dead body in the steam room.
What a perfect book to read at the beach. Raphael looks at the culture of the health club as well as American society using Nick Hoffman to satirize the rich. Stylishly written, you will be taken on a series of twists and turns through the world in which we live and you will be turning pages quickly. The writing is clear and probably some of the best that Raphael has done. Nick and Juno manage to get a good look at the life of the wealthy and as they do so, secrets are no longer secret and deceptions cease to deceive. Nick also has to deal with his own secrets and those of his partner who has a complicated past. The book is not just a story but a puzzle that the reader has to solve. Peppered with human characters that are identifiable as people we know, “Hot Rocks” is a fun romp. It isn’t just a story, it’s a trip. Nick is our driver and quickly becomes a friend who gives a social commentary which is honest and real. As excitement increases and we near a climax and think we have everything figured out, things change and the ride gains speed. I was somewhat sad t close the covers of the book because it meant I would be saying goodbye to friends I had made. But knowing that Raphael is a writer who just doesn’t quit, I also know that I will be with Nick again in the eighth of the series.