Friday, February 17, 2006

Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly

I picked up a copy of Disappearing Nightly because I flipped it open in the bookstore and the narrator's voice reminded me of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum (the One for the Money series), an opinion that I think is pretty well borne out by the rest of the book. In fact, next time Stephanie goes to New York, she ought to go shopping with Esther--Evanovich's series has taken a short spin through the realm of urban fantasty, after all, so they can probably share stories at the Sephora counter about maniacal magic users they've known, and the hardships of falling for a cop.

Disappearing Nightly, as its title suggests, has a struggling actress, Esther Diamond, as its heroine and narrator. It seems that the assistants to various stage magicians are actually disappearing during the "vanishing acts." Esther was the understudy to one of them, and her turn in the magician's magic box is next, so she has to figure out why the assistants are disappearing and what's happening to them. Fortunately she has the help of a 500-year magician named Max Zadoc as well as other enjoyable side characters such as a millionare Texan, an accountant, and four drag queens. This quirky cast spends most of its time trying to solve the case, without attracting the notice of Detective Lopez, the cop in charge of the first disappearance and Esther's love intrest. Lopez's behavior towards her when she's a suspect raised my eyebrows a bit, but the book never claimed to be a police procedural and his character was likeable enough. As in Evanovitch's series, the best parts were the dialogues between Esther and Lopez, particularly when he's also on the phone with his mother.

The book was lightweight--the mystery plot isn't overly taxing and the four drag-queen characters seemed particularly to replicate each other--but I enjoyed it. Apparently a whole series of books, called Manhattan Magic, is planned for these characters. If the location is important enough to feature in the series title, I'd like to see Resnick do more with it. This book could have happened in Vegas, L.A., Chicago, London, or Vancouver with absolutely no violence to the plot, since most of the action takes place indoors in fictional locations. That's OK for this first outing, but I'd like to see the future books develop a stronger sense of place. If you think Stephanie Plum is fun, and you like fantasy fiction, though, you might want to pick this one up.

Jumping to the recipe for this post: I will now reveal my super-duper burger recipe because it's quick, I actually made it up myself, and I don't think I've posted it already (I'd better start keeping a list, or I am going to repeat a recipe).

1 lb ground beef
1 handful crumbled feta cheese
2 chopped green onions
Lowry's seasoning salt, to taste (1 tsp to start)
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce.

combine ingredients, mixing as little as possible so the meat doesn't become tough. Form into 4 patties and broil, 4-5 minutes a side for medium burgers. You can also fry these, grill them outdoors, or if you have one of those fancy grill pans, use it. I think to have the full experience, you should have some dill relish on them, as well as ketchup and mustard. My husband hates dill relish and mustard, so he disagrees.

Hey, anyone have a grill pan? I'm thinking about getting one since Rachael Ray calls for it a lot. Drop me a comment on that, burgers, or the book and let me know what you think!


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