A paraplegic private investigator tracks a cunning criminal in Wassermann's debut noir mystery.
When New Yorker P.I. A.J. Carlin is hired by handsome Eddie Dahlgren, she instinctively knows that all is not as it seems. Still, she agrees to locate the love interest of Eddie's wealthy, 32-year-old niece, Tanya, who moonlights as a singer in a musical group run by Floriana friars. A suspicious death of someone close to A.J., plus the long-ago disappearance of a friend's mother and a multimillion dollar inheritance of her own, soon have A.J. methodically unraveling the twisted truth about past and present crimes. Fiercely independent, A.J. continually reminds everyone about her physical condition throughout the case, often with self-deprecating jokes ("pint-size pleej gimp broad"). She isn't above using her wheelchair to her advantage when necessary, whether it's to gain access to an off-limits location or become conveniently invisible to an able-bodied crowd. Her fondness for strained metaphors ("sleeping like sliced salami"), her crude, tough-guy language and prickly nature suggest an isolated loner. Luckily, she isn't. A.J.'s saving grace is her odd assortment of friends and colleagues, including a beautiful childhood chum, a lawyer on the brink of retirement and electronics guru Tony the Ferret. All help illuminate the narrator's well-hidden sensitive side. Short chapters packed with dialogue and none of the long-winded, internal whodunnit debates that sometimes plague mysteries help the book move at a quick pace. While there are a few surprising twists, including a clever rouse to gather information from a closed office, the bulk of the novel marches steadily through the ho-hum, routine detective work of faxes, phone messages and interviews. The denouement, while containing an intriguing premise, feels hurried and out-of-sync with the rest of the novel. Similarly, the benevolent epilogue also feels far-fetched, especially given the thorny narrator.
A mystery with an unusual detective shows hints of promise, but ultimately fails to captivate.