San Diego shamus Tom Hickey (The Venus Deal, 1993, etc.), now retired to Tahoe with his very pregnant wife, Wendy, thinks the summons from hellion Cynthia Jones, who's sitting in a San Diego jail for torching her hated brother-in-law's club with him inside, has plopped him into the middle of an updated Red Harvest (not very updated, since it's 1950). He'll buzz down the coast, make enough waves to set the probable killers—rival gangsters Mickey Cohen and Angelo Paoli—against each other, and then sit back while the two gangs rub each other out. But the plan develops an unexpected twist: Somebody (well-entrenched Cohen? New Jersey ÇmigrÇ Paoli?) gets mad enough to snatch childlike Wendy, while another pair of thugs grabs Tom's old partner, Leo Weiss, and starts working him over real bad, real slow. With his great instincts and contacts, Tom doesn't have to ride herd on the case in San Diego; after dropping a few dark threats that spring Cynthia from jail, he high- tails it back home, ostensibly to persuade Wendy's kidnappers that he's off the case but actually to convince them that they messed with the wrong expectant mother. Fast and fervid as the first two installments of the trilogy, with detective logic overwhelmed by enough hired guns for a whole season of hallucinatory TV shootouts.
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