A Murder Too Close
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
Once the melting pot that welcomed new immigrants, many residents of New York City East Side neighborhoods near the Ground Zero crater distrust newcomers especially those with Asian garb since the Twin Towers disaster. Hearing rumors of private investigator Phil Rodriquez’s gutting someone’s male anatomy, former school mate chum Sam Epstein, co-owner of a cleaning store, asks him to rough Hindu teenage Frankie who he wants to stay away from his fourteen years old niece Sasha Heller whose mom died in the WTC on 9/11, Phil refuses.
Phil decides to eat at the Indian restaurant owned by Frankie’s parents to insure the teen is not a punk. However, by the time he arrives the restaurant is an inferno; Phil assumes Uncle Sammy committed the hate crime. He later learns a delivery man died in the blaze. Homeland Security agents go after the victims of the fire because of their heritage though they are legal and the insurance company refuses to pay insisting an investigation is underway to insure this was not self inflicted arson. Other “Thems” are hurt too either by assaults or by complaints to HSD about their behavior that sends agents on these Thems. Phil and his business partner Yolanda Aguierre get involved as the feds and the cops seem to target the legal immigrants only, not the arsonist or the xenophobic stalkers.
Phil’s investigation is exciting as he runs through roadblocks from HSD, local hate advocates, and perhaps the Russian Mafia. However, what makes A MURDER TO CLOSE excellent is Penny Mickelbury who provides a strong case that helpless outrage has led to the loss of liberty for some; which extrapolates to all. The story line looks closely at people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and how they have reacted since while also providing a deep glimpse into the lives of Muslims, Hindu and Sikh residents trying to make it in an atmosphere of hate. Phil, Yolanda, Sasha’s grandfather, and others welcome the newcomers while HSD, insurance firms, and some locals harass the Thems.