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Face of Greed


Face of Greed

James L’Etoile’s series launch introduces Sacramento detective Emily Hunter. At age 36, she is a career law enforcement officer who agonizes over her mom’s slow descent into dementia.

Hunter and her partner, Javier Medina, investigate the brutal murder of power broker Roger Townsend. Why then is the mayor there to comfort the grieving widow, Lori, who incurred only a minor injury during the home invasion? The police chief pretty much expects the detectives to rubber stamp her tale as evidence. Case closed before it opens. The top cop instructs Hunter not to question Lori again, which is something the police chief doesn’t tell Medina.

"Each link in the proverbial chain gang is attached to another. L’Etoile weaves these plot threads into a satisfying police procedural tapestry."

Hunter can’t interrogate Lori, but she wasn’t told not to use GPS tracking devices, follow her wherever she goes and videotape the widow’s actions. And, perhaps slightly illegal (Penal Code §632), record her conversations. Hunter pushes the envelope far beyond the thin blue line: “Once politics infects a case, common sense disappears.”

FACE OF GREED richly describes gruesome evidence. Hunter discerns that Townsend’s throat was slit by a tall right-handed person, and the bloody gash that nearly decapitated him is pulled left to right, from behind. She surmises that excessive violence broadcasts a message of hate --- or satisfaction. Moreover, the victim had been shot in the back. However, L’Etoile does temper the gore by personifying the main characters, the burdens they bear and their aspirations.

The detective duo feels that there’s more to Lori’s story, especially since she has morphed into the merry widow --- and not the Franz Lehár operetta kind. They learn that Townsend’s attorney, Wayne Corona, was ready to file divorce court proceedings, and a business partner had been shifting massive funds to a private account, the last of which was on the day Townsend died. Now, Corona wears a necklace identical to Townsend’s --- a slit throat. But in fiction, the obvious rarely is the culprit, à la Agatha Christie.

Police higher-ups finger a homeless person as the perp, “[a]n old man in his 70s.” (This septuagenarian reviewer absolves L’Etoile’s comment.) But Hunter and Medina walk back the cat to find connections to a biker gang and drug deals amongst Pelican Bay prison inmates and parolees. Each link in the proverbial chain gang is attached to another. L’Etoile weaves these plot threads into a satisfying police procedural tapestry.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on November 10, 2023

Face of Greed
by James L'Etoile

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608095878
  • ISBN-13: 9781608095872