Steal the Show Review
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Some books are just no-brainers for me. A mystery about movies? Count me in! But the cinematic backdrop of author Thomas Kaufman’s latest Willis Gidney mystery, Steal the Show, wasn’t enough to keep me captivated.

Washington, D.C., private investigator Willis Gidney grew up in the system, moving from foster home to foster home. Now he’s trying to save a little girl that he rescued during a recent case from the same fate by adopting her as his own daughter. Unfortunately, though, his lifestyle doesn’t exactly make him an ideal adoptive parent—and his case worker seems determined to make his life miserable. What he needs is money—so he can hire the best lawyer available.

Gidney’s desperate, so he takes a job that’s not exactly legal. Rush Gemelli pays him well to break into a warehouse and help bust a group that’s pirating movies—in hopes of impressing Gemelli’s powerful dad, Chuck. But suddenly Gidney finds himself being followed by inept gang members—and as the bodies start piling up, the case turns into more than just hunting down movie pirates.

Though I may be a sucker for anything involving movies and movie stars, Steal the Show just doesn’t have that Hollywood glitz and glitter to it. The main story—about movie pirating—isn’t all that interesting, and there are so many characters and subplots in the mix that it’s hard to keep them all straight. There are various gang members from various gangs trailing Gidney, and, at the same time, he’s also being stalked by both an aggressive action star and his moody starlet wife—though neither subplot is particularly well developed.

Most of the story’s attention, then, is turned to Gidney’s personal life—to his fight to adopt the little girl he calls Sarah and his relationship with brainy ex-model Lilly. Lilly is a particularly frustrating character. She’s so mortified by her stunning beauty that she spends hours making herself look (and smell) ugly when she’s out in public—just so her male IT clients will see her for her (apparently brilliant) work instead of her looks. Her behavior (and the huge chip on her shoulder) feels unnaturally extreme. And, really, if she wants to be taken seriously, maybe she could start by not saying, like, “like” in every sentence.

Gidney, too, is a difficult character to care about. That’s not to say that he’s an unlikable character. He’s the typical tough guy with a troubled past—and his determination to save Sarah from the system makes him admirable (even though he makes some questionable moves in the process). But he’s simply too typical. He just doesn’t have the kind of strong personality that would make him a memorable hero.

Throw in a far-fetched and convoluted conclusion—as well as the author’s tendency toward run-on sentences—and you’ve got a book that’s far from a blockbuster. Even movie buffs like me will find it tough to finish and easy to forget.

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