four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-MrParadiseChloe Robinette earns $5,000 a month entertaining Mr. Paradise, a wealthy 84-year-old Detroit lawyer. In a generous moment, she invites her friend, Victoria's Secret model Kelly Barr, to join the fun. But when Chloe dances for Paradiso in her topless cheerleader's uniform, the two wind up dead in front of Kelly. The killers then ask Kelly to masquerade as Chloe so they can access Paradiso's safe deposit box. The real fun begins when homicide cop Frank Delsa falls in love with Kelly-Chloe, who's now a suspect. And the results are ugly.
Morrow. 291 pages. $25.95.

Boston Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"...a more than characteristically satisfying Leonard-like mix of mayhem, tart dialogue, dark humor, and trick-footed grammar. ... The author's m.o. is to put his quirky characters in motion and then let them sort things out for themselves - let the plot chips (and body parts) fall where they may." Tom Nolan

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"[Instead] of a trite whodunit, the reader gets a taut psychological drama, let's watch the bad guys try to weasel their way out of trouble. ... At 78, Mr. Leonard has apparently entered yet another creative golden age." Kevin Canfield

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"You will love this excellent book. ... His details are so well chosen, so recognizable that we initially feel an amused sense of false security about their presence." Ann Beattie

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"I've gone on record suggesting that the next time the members of the Swedish Academy think about giving the Nobel Prize for literature to an American, they take a look at Elmore Leonard. ... The characters may be lowlifes, but the shape Leonard brings to their tales is as tightly wrought as any sonnet's, the counterpoint of plotlines as graceful as it is intricate." Frank Wilson

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"In Mr. Paradise alone he takes us inside the mind of a fashion model with a taste for alexanders and hip-hop, lets us share in the jive of a ghetto kid named Jerome, gives us the jokey, sports-filled conversation of a couple of working stiffs in Detroit Tigers caps, and reproduces the tired, jokey give-and-take of an exhausted homicide squad. ... While reading Mr. Paradise, one is serenely happy just to be reading it." Michael Dirda

Oregonian 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Paradise, the 38th novel from the 78-year-old master, is his worst since ... well, you have to go back a long way. ... Look, Leonard at his worst is better than 98 of 100 other authors at their best." Jeff Baker

Critical Summary

Like his previous noir novels, Mr. Paradise, dedicated to the Detroit Police Homicide Section, is "unputdownable" (Washington Post). A few loose ends, too much hipness, so what? We know whodunit early on, so Leonard devotes his energy to his quirky cast of lowlifes, replicating diverse American linguists including a McDonald's counter girl and a Chanel fashion model. Although the novel questions the many forms deception takes, it casts no moral shadow on the characters' questionable pursuits. Leonard "is no simple moralist," writes The New York Times Book Review. "Rather, he brilliantly involves himself in playing the same game he is exposing." And it's a game all readers should play.