(Sixth in the Carlotta Carlyle series)
St. Martin's Minotaur
In her sixth spellbinding adventure, Carlotta Carlyle, the 6'1" redheaded P.I. from Boston, takes on a case that draws her into the mysterious shadow of computer technology, where information is cheap, and privacy may be a thing of the past. Part-time cabbie Carlotta is entering the modern age of investigation. With the help of her sometime lover, mafioso, and computer-hobbyist Sam Gianelli, she invests in her first
hardware, a cheap personal computer. And at the urging of her ex-boss, Boston Police Lt. Mooney, who decries the stopping power of her .38 S&W, she decides to upgrade her arsenal. Both types of hardware come in handy when Carlotta is hired by Gloria, owner of G&W Cab, to investigate the brutal robberies that are causing her cabbies to quit in record numbers, and the violence and unanswered questions escalate. An explosion rocks G&W, killing Gloria's brother and seriously wounding co-owner Sam Gianelli. Is someone out to bankrupt G&W to acquire its invaluable cab medallions? Is the company a pawn in a Mafia vendetta, with Sam, the underboss's son, the target? And who put that tiny microphone near G&W's bathroom? Aided by a mysterious databank expert, Carlotta learns far more than she thought possible about
private transactions. And she finds herself digging into Sam's past, exposing secrets he's kept hidden for years — secrets that begin to pull them further apart. As the investigation reaches its climax, Carlotta realizes, almost too late, that the mob may be just a fall guy in a very intimate crime.
The New York Times Book Review, March 5, 1995
Cabbies go everyplace, by law, Carlotta Carlyle lets us know in HARDWARE (Delacorte, $19.95). There are tough sections of Boston like Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester that Linda Barnes's cabby-sleuth would like to dodge, but that's not her style.
With my hair tucked up under a cap, no makeup, a no-nonsense attitude and a length of lead pipe beneath my seat, I drive . . .
Carlotta is terrific company when she's in her driving mode: working the graveyard shift at the Green and White Cab Company in the Allston-Brighton area (
Neither Allston nor Brighton is eager to claim it), shooting the breeze with the old
geezers and wheezers at the garage, looking out for trouble in the industry — like the beatings and robberies that are spooking drivers and forcing small cab companies off the road. That's trouble.
Ms. Barnes makes a fist and puts some muscle in this strong plot about an extortionist scheme to corner the market in the taxi medallions. It's a dangerous situation for the company's working-stiff drivers and its mob-connected owner, who is also Carlotta's lover — reason enough to make her upgrade her
hardware by junking her tinny .38 Smith & Wesson for a serious automatic and by getting an industrial-strength computer. The author also boots up Carlotta's brain by handing her one of her most challenging cases in years.
— Marilyn Stasio
New Woman Magazine, April 1995
Female private investigators are among the best stereotypebusters of fiction. V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone — they're smart, they're sassy, and they're quite capable of defending themselves. Author Linda Barnes's P.I.' Carlotta Carlyle — six foot one, half Jewish, and capped with a tangled helmet of red hair — is no exception. In Hardware (Delacorte, $19.95) — her sixth adventure — our fearless hero stumbles down the information superhighway using her
computerized lie detector (her term of endearment for her new personal computer) to help her finger the culprit behind a recent rash of cabbie beatings. As a graveyard-shift driver for a small taxi company, she's rather eager to solve the case — before she joins the list of casualties.
Baldwin City, KS Ledger, June 1, 1995
Six-foot redheaded Carlotta Carlyle returns. She's still Big Sister to Paolina, whose early teenage years are predictably stormy. Carlotta herself is reluctantly entering the Computer Age. To make ends meet between investigations, Carlotta often drives nights for Green and White Cab.
Immense co-owner wheelchair-bound Gloria is a special friend. The other owner is Carlotta's sometime lover, Sam Gianelia, youngest son of a major Boston mobster. To help her into computing, Sam has reluctantly introduced her to a paranoid computer genius. Cab drivers are being beaten up, and it seems more than just robbery. Green & White seems to be hit most often. One of Gloria's big beefy brothers is nearly killed. Gloria hires Carlotta to investigate. Her boyfriend, policeman Mooney, agrees with Sam for once, he says it's much too dangerous.
Is Sam's family trying to acquire the limited cab licenses by scaring away drivers and driving small companies into bankruptcy? What's his computer friend's angle? And what really happened to his boyhood chum, when they were grunts together in Vietnam? This line of inquiry almost leads to Sam's death. And Carlotta herself barely manages to save herself and her artistic tenant from an unexpected killer.
The plot moves logically, just ahead of the reader. Carlyle, Gloria, Paolina, Sam and Mooney are welcome returning characters, becoming more intricate and complicated, more real. Warning, this is a difficult book to put down!