Miami Steam
by Chantal Verlaine, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-558-9


I sincerely apologize to the author Chantal Verlaine but I have a hard time not laughing out loud every time I come across the "Night Knifer", the hilarious name given to the serial killer, sorry, "serial stabber" that prowls in this story. A "serial stabber", snicker.

Anyway, as they work to nab the serial stabber called the Night Knifer - guffaw, guffaw - Detective Rick Gonzalez and journalist Rebecca Challenger have to try to overlook the issues between them. He doesn't like her because a while back when she poked her nose into his investigation, his face ended up in a photo on the front page. For an undercover cop, this wasn't good, and poor Rick was tossed out of narcotics and the investigation was flushed down the drain after eight months of work. Rebecca is like, hello, not my fault, so whatever. Guess which character I'm inclined to side in this issue.

I suspect that set up in this story will not be possible in real life, but who cares about realism when the serial stabber named the Night Knifer is going to stab us all in our beds, right? So Rick is told by his superior to fully cooperate with Rebecca, letting her meddle and poke her nose here and there, because the bureau has an image to maintain and they want the public to know that they are doing a good job. Hey, don't laugh or the author will sic the serial stabber on you. Who are you going to call when he's stabbing your disbelieving ass to pieces, huh?

I love this story. When these two characters are supposed to focus on the scene of crime, he's thinking of earth-shattering things like the color of her nipples while she's daydreaming about how she is so attracted to him. Rebecca also drops her notebook on the ground without her realizing it while Rick pettily wonders whether he should hide it so that she can't take notes. After all, reporters are completely helpless without pen and paper, you know.

And then we have such dramatic moments like this one that have me at the edge of my seat, snort:

[spoiler starts] Rebecca thought fast. The only story she had written recently that mentioned someone's mother was the story about the Night Knifer. Jesus, could she be talking to the serial killer himself? Fear bolted through her. Before she had a chance to react, he was talking. "I'm willing to give you an exclusive interview, Red, so you get your facts straight for the next story."

"Wait, are you... you're not... you couldn't be... the, ah, Night Knifer by any chance?"

"So what if I am? I got a story for you."

"Who are you?"

"Yes or no, lady. I ain't got all day."

"I... I..."

The man suddenly reached out and grabbed her upper arm. She yelped. "You're going to get the real story whether you like it or not," he said through clenched teeth. [spoiler ends]

Miami Steam is a pretty amusing story, reminding me of those pulp novels in the 1960s and 1970s, although unfortunately for Ms Verlaine, this one is amusing for all the wrong reasons. The characters behave in stupid and childish ways that jar pretty badly with the gravity of the investigation they are supposedly working on, for one. The police procedural details in this story make Enid Blyton's The Famous Five books ten times more authentic by comparison. Still, given that it's early in the week and I'm not in the mood to be destroyer of hopes and dreams so soon, I'd just say this: let's try again, Ms Verlaine.

Rating: 47


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