Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: The Black Stiletto


The Black Stiletto: Black & White

By: Raymond Benson
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 2012
ISBN: 978-1608090419
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 2012

Judy Cooper is one tough young woman. Disguised as the "Black Stiletto," Judy travels through the boroughs of New York, taking on crime bosses, fighting for women sold into prostitution, and yes, still finding time for romance with an FBI agent.

The second novel by author Raymond Benson to feature the Black Stiletto, the story switches between two time periods; 1959 where we follow Judy's crime fighting capers, and "the present," where Judy's son, Martin, is taking care of his now elderly mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s.

For those who have not read the first in this series, Judy has been taught to fight by Freddie Barnes, the owner of a local gym. Soichiro Tachikawa, a martial arts teacher, has also instructed Judy in karate and judo. When Judy discovers that Soichiro is being forced to pay $5,000 a month to Carl Purdy, a Harlem drug lord who also has his hands in prostitution and extortion, she promises to help. Judy needs to get money, and get it fast to help Soichiro. Earlier, Hollywood had come calling, looking to feature the Black Stiletto in some films. While at first reluctant, Judy now decides to take the offer to help her instructor. But the studio needs proof that she is in fact the crime fighter, and that's where Jerry Munroe, a man who says he can make a short film of her in action, comes into the story. But there are serious repercussions to trusting Jerry, a man with a shady background.

Alas, the above issues are not the only things Judy has to contend with in this story. Adding to the tension, Soichiro's daughter Isuzu winds up in one of Purdy's whorehouses and Judy wants to save her. Also, like many self-proclaimed crime fighters, the Black Stiletto is never given the credit due her for fighting crime. In fact, the newspapers paint her as part of the problem and FBI agent John Richardson has been charged with discovering the Black Stiletto's true identity and bringing the woman to justice. But John is charming, handsome and...can Judy trust him? She's not sure but it looks like she is falling in love.
Meanwhile, in present-day Chicago, Judy's son Martin has discovered a copy of the 8mm film that Judy made with Munroe, the shady camera buff. Most of the short film features Judy with her mask on but there is a short clip at the end that shows Judy sans mask. Martin is determined to hide his mother's true identity from the public but when Monroe's son produces a second copy, things get messy.

The story is told in the first person, through the eyes of three narrators: Judy, via her diary entries, John Richardson, who makes numerous home dictaphone recordings, and Martin, who is simply telling his story to the reader. While this jumping around between narrators, and time periods, is at first a bit disorienting, it soon starts to comfortably flow together, particularly as the two timelines begin to merge. While Judy's crime fighting capabilities at times stretch believability as she races across rooftops and takes on the big guys and comes out with only minor scrapes and bruises, the story is a lot of fun. Readers who want to see a smart, sassy woman crime fighter will enjoy this second book in the Black Stiletto series.

Quill says: If you're willing to suspend a bit of believability, then you'll surely enjoy this novel about one tough young woman who takes on all the bad guys she encounters, while still finding time for a little romance.