This is around the 12th or 13th Leonard novel I've read, and it's been several years since I really enjoyed one from start to finish. Happily, his latest Detroit-set caper is pitch perfect and a ton of fun. Things kick off with typical Leonard oddballness: retired and ultra-wealthy lawyer Mr. Paradiso likes to watch tapes of old University of Michigan football games, and pays an escort $5,000 a month to dress up as a topless UM cheerleader for these sessions. One night she talks her model roommate into coming along for a special twin cheerleader session, and of course that's the night two hit men come to whack Mr. Paradiso.
As in so many of Leonard's books, the criminals don't really have their acts together. The hit was supposed to be called off for the night, but the hit man's wife didn't pass along the message, and so the escort is added to the body count, complicating things. However, things get even more complicated when the old man's personal assistant strong-arms the model into swapping identities with the dead escort -- and soon Detective Frank Delsa is on the scene, smelling a rat. It's one of those crime capers where the suspense comes not from knowing who did what (that's all cut and dried), but how it's all going to play out, and how Delsa is going to put the pieces together. There's a host of highly entertaining and distinctive supporting characters, including the two hit men, a smalltime snitch, the assistant, an seemingly-decrepit butler, Paradiso's family, and a crooked lawyer.
The plotting is both intricate and seemingly effortless, as the story unfurls in a breezy, unhurried tone with plenty of humor and violence. Tonally, it's very very similar to "Out of Sight", with everyone playing angles, the cop who knows what's what but is letting it play out, and the flirty romance between Delsa and the model, and plenty of sly dialogue. It's nice to see the master can still knock one out of the park.