Doppelgangster
by Laura Resnick, paranormal (2010)
DAW, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0595-3


Doppelgangster is the second book in Laura Resnick's paranormal mystery series featuring our heroine Esther Diamond, but I think it can stand alone quite well. The plot here is new, and we have a new roster of secondary characters, so there is no need to remember important details from the previous book. Oh, yes, the romance between Esther and Det Connor Lopez started in the previous book, but the relationship is not front and center of the whole story. It's easy to catch up. At any rate, read my review of the previous book to catch up on the background details about Esther.

So, where we last left off, Esther and Max along with the guys who were tagging along saved New York City and maybe the world from a demon. Now that the fifteen minutes of high is over, it's back to real life, and Esther learns that Sorcerer! is closing. Out of a job, she returns to the oh-so-familiar gig of waiting tables. Only, her workplace is the hangout of some of the biggest players of Italian organized crime syndicates, and things get weird when two versions of the same guy start showing up.

When the real guys start dropping dead, Esther realizes that she's not seeing things. There may just be doppelgängers of these Mafia dudes running around, and these doppelgängers may be the ones behind the murders. But first, Esther has to convince the cops - and her boyfriend - that she's not the ones responsible (being first at the scene of crime can get the cops to think the worst of you, after all). Luckily for her, Max is willing to lend a hand, as are his new familiar, some dapper gentleman criminals, and more.

As I've enjoyed the previous book, I picked Doppelgangster up expecting a light and frothy read. That is exactly what I get here, as this book is light on lore and sobriety, preferring to bring on humor of both verbal and slapstick kind.

The thing is, this one drags considerably and is far less entertaining than the previous book. A big reason for this is the constant repetition of what our main characters have known so far to every secondary character they meet. As a result, I often feel as if I'm stuck in some kind of weird time warp as the same details get rehashed often. Also, Esther and Max seem to have lost a considerable amount of brain cells between the previous book and this one, as they miss out some glaringly obvious clues and signs that are practically waving at their faces. Lost in the whole mix is the humor - there aren't as many amusing lines or scenes here compared to the previous book. The characters seem to be in more scenes of physical comedy here, but the whole thing feels rote instead of comical.

On the bright side, this one is definitely more romance-heavy than the previous book, so fans of the romance between Esther and Connor may have a good time here. I'm not too invested in the romance, however, so I'm quite lukewarm where those two are concerned. Connor is still on the one-dimensional side to me: he has some charming lines here, but on the whole, he seems far more like an underdeveloped trophy for Esther rather than a character in his own right. But there are more books in the series, so there's plenty of opportunity to turn him into a three-dimensional dude.

Also, the secondary characters here may still be clichés - think of any comedy featuring Italian stereotypes and they are all here in their predictable glory - but they are more memorable than those in the previous books. This could be due to the fact that Ms Resnick wisely focuses on a more manageable cast of secondary characters this time around, and thus, everyone gets a fair chance at being a sidekick to remember.

Still, there's no denying that I feel that this book is a letdown after the previous book. Is this what they call a sophomore slump? Oh well, maybe the next book in the series would bring back the magic.

Rating: 71


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