Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Paradise

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

MYSTERY

by Elmore Leonard

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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A widowed detective falls for a lingerie model who may or may not have links to her hooker best friend's murder. In another celebration of Detroit lowlifes, this marks Leonard's return to his hometown police force (he still lives nearby in Bloomfield Village, Mich.) after a two-decade detour to capers in Florida and Los Angeles. Bursting with note-perfect dialogue, knowing tours through the backrooms of Detroit Police Homicide Section and visits to the web of gritty side streets and interstates that intersect in Motown's decrepit downtown district, Mr. Paradise is nirvana for connoisseurs of memorable bit players. It's peppered with such characters as an octogenarian who has a soft spot for topless cheerleaders, a none-too-bright hits-for-hire crew and a squad-room full of smart cops and bad-luck robbers. At 78, Leonard leaves no doubts about his street cred: He turns out to be conversant in Eminem, Iggy Pop and hip-hop acts that work the genre's outer hard-core fringe. Who knew?

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