“The Second Son” lacks the concentrated energy of its predecessors, which are both set in Hoffner’s native country. As a sweaty German ex-cop in Zaragoza, he doesn’t have the same allure that he mustered during his heyday in Berlin. Yet Rabb still steers him into some sharp scenes and snappy dialogue. “You shoot well with your left hand,” Hoffner tells an anarchist who has managed to kill the two Nazis who’d been torturing him. “Close range,” the anarchist answers. “Not that difficult.”
People don’t really talk this way, but Rabb makes you wish they did. He also captures the seedy appeal of some of the places where Hoffner conducts his investigations: “The bar was down in the Raval section of town, near the water and the docks, a good place for pimps and drunks and journalists. . . . Now, at 4 in the afternoon, it was primarily journalists.” Although its prose occasionally ventures into Danielle Steel territory (at one point, Hoffner, staring at Mila, “let himself believe in all things possible”), the narrative never flags. It proves that first-rate detectives are like good lovers and good novelists: keenly observant, intuitive and tough as nails.
Love the line: “People don’t really talk this way, but Rabb makes you wish they did.” And of the course the final sentence is classic.