Tarnished Gold

Tarnished Gold - Ann Aptaker It's been 1 1/2 years since the events from the first book [b:Criminal Gold|21413963|Criminal Gold (Cantor Gold Crime, #1)|Ann Aptaker|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403360952s/21413963.jpg|40714722] shook up Cantor Gold's world. That time, Cantor had simply been at the wrong place and the wrong time to get herself caught with a dead body. This time, her actions pin her as a 'person of interest', if not the prime suspect, in a grisly crime that may have directly resulted from her less than legit 'recovery' of a painting. Unfortunately, spilling the truth to the cops will mean exposing her very lucrative art-smuggling operation to unwanted scrutiny. The cops want to pin her to the crime, other shady characters want to rat her out to the cops, and everyone else wants the painting for themselves. Just another day in the life of Cantor Gold. :)

In this second installment, the author takes us back again to 1950s New York and the colorful and shady characters who inhabit the underbelly of the city as well as its shiny mansions. In addiiton to the corrupt cops and mob figures (some from book 1), the book's added some high society types to the mix--though not high enough that they're not above dealing with the likes of Cantor. Cantor is a bit of an anomaly. She dresses as a man and lives as such, unafraid and unapologetic of her lifestyle, though she is careful to avoid too much attention. Greasing the right palms here and there gets her the freedom to ply her trade and pretty much live life as she wants. A good part of the first book Criminal Gold had more of a 'character study' feel to it--being that it had to introduce us to Cantor. The first person POV made Cantor's all-too-honest thoughts sound smug and narcissistic, and her tendency to fall into the charms of and be easily distracted by sexy ladies, was annoying at best and totally infuriating at the most inappropriate of times. Thankfully, that doesn't happen anymore in the second book. It's all action and suspense from the get go. As usual, our intrepid art smuggler gets herself into all sorts of trouble in this book, picks up a few more trophy scars, and gets all the pretty ladies. Except, this time, she doesn't go after the ladies anymore. She's perfected the art of playing hard to get. And with better results, I might add, lol.

The mystery is very well done, as usual. Lots of tension and fast pacing sustain the suspense. The author is good at leading the reader astray. My own suspicions leaned in a completely different direction. I suspected, and would have preferred that the murder had something to do with the Nazis, since it was only a few years after the war, and it wouldn't have been too farfetched for them to try to retrieve what had been stolen from them. The fact that the crime was the work of a sociopath seemed stranger and more improbable. On the other hand, the Nazis probably wouldn't have dared call attention to their theft by trying to retrive the painting, so sociopath it is. :)

Some other observations: Cantor seems to have expanded her services. It's always been implied that she's just a trader, a middleman. But in this book, she seems to have actually procured the item herself, and all the way from the Nazi source. So Indiana Jones! Now that would have been interesting to read about. Maybe in the next book? Also, there is a subtle shift in her attitude towards women. In the previous book, she practically salivates over them. But now, she just admires and appreciates from a distance. Character development? LOL. And it works out even better for her. :) And lastly, why doesn't Cantor hire herself some muscle? She can certainly easily afford it. Her brushes with the underworld are getting dangerously frequent and life-threatening, and not all scars are sexy! Or does she think bodyguards will crimp her lifestyle and her social life? ;)

4.75 stars

P.S. Readers who decide to pick this up will want to start with the first book [b:Criminal Gold|21413963|Criminal Gold (Cantor Gold Crime, #1)|Ann Aptaker|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403360952s/21413963.jpg|40714722] to better appreciate the lead character, her past and her quest for her missing love. Despite the rather slow start, it ended with a bang, literally and figuratively.

P.P.S. I just remembered I had once read a noir-ish detective lesfic book before: [b:30 Days Hath September|10299276|30 Days Hath September (Wolf's Tales, #1)|Jamie Scarratt|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348767755s/10299276.jpg|15201228]. If you like noir, that is also a good read. The lead is also an unapologetic lesbian--in the 1920s!!