MATT & BONNIE TAYLOR – Neon Flamingo. Dodd Mean, hardcover, 1987. St. Martin’s, paperback, June 1990.

   This is the first in the series of three Palmer Kingston novels. I posted Barry Gardner’s review of the third, Neon Dancers, a couple of weeks ago. He liked it well enough that when I had the chance to read this one, I couldn’t turn it down.

   To save myself of thinking up the same words to describe the two main series characters, both newspaper reporters, I’ve decided to use Barry’s instead: “Kingston is something of an eccentric, living in a garish mansion surrounded by neon signs and antique cars. [His lover and rival, A. J.] Egan is a tenant in the mansion. If it all sounds a little strange, well, it is.”

   This novel chronicles the first time they met, with A. J. moving in and their working on the same case together, but from opposite sides of the fence, working as they do for two directly competing newspapers.

   They make for a compatible if somewhat lightweight couple who somehow drift into sharing the same bed, on occasion, but I didn’t find the case they’re working on to be of much interest. The killing of a retired police captain seems to Palmer to be directly connected to a kidnapping that took place some 20 years when he was the new kid in town. I didn’t make the same jump in logic as quickly as he did. I found myself continually playing catch-up and never feeling as filled in as I thought I should.

   Most of the characters are only there. None stand out, not even the two leading ones. The book’s not bad, the setting is fine — a mid-sized town on the Florida coast — but the story is weak, and it’s tough to get over that. All in all, it’s a book that could have been a whole lot better.