By Penny Rudolph
326 pages, Hard Cover
Poisoned Pen Press, 2007
Another episode in the messy, odd and delightful life of Rachel Chavez, an LA parking garage owner/operator. She’s a hard-nosed softie, a vulnerable surprisingly naive woman who’d had more than her share of disappointments and hard knocks. She lives in a small apartment near the top of the multi-storied garage with a cat, and she hangs out from time to time with a self-styled witch of a bag lady and a wise and practical woman who runs a crew of nighttime office cleaning employees.
Rachel Chavez is a recovering alcoholic with a father who can’t stay away from the poker tables. She’s in love with a married but divorcing water quality engineer named Hank. Hank loves Rachel but he’s somewhat put off by Rachel’s willingness to jump into the middle of strange and mysterious goings on in a nearby hospital. Rachel finds a pair of children locked in an abandoned van in her garage. One is already tragically dead and the other promptly disappears from the hospital. This sets Rachel on a rutted and twisting path to find the missing boy. The results of her nosiness lead to Hank being shot, and Rachel being arrested for stealing Oxy-Contin from the hospital.
Written in a competent and straight-forward style, the author lets her quirky characters speak for themselves and carry the story. Everybody runs. Bad guys swirl in and out of scenes, Rachel persists in poking into places she has no business being, and several of her friends become increasingly exasperated with her sometimes thoughtless actions.
It all works out in the end, of course so we’re assured Rachel Chavez will be back for more off-the-wall and cleverly constructed adventures. Rudolph writes a good story and even if nobody here comes away with really clean hands, Rachel is a character one cottons to and if her motivations are sometimes weak and questionable, Rudolph carries if off with solid writing, pace and plot.