Stunned by the events of Hardball (1985), which left his girlfriend Patricia in a coma, Virginia shamus Loren Swift is reluctant to take a new case--but $50,000 is too big a windfall to pass up: that's what Swift will earn if he can prove that counter-culture engineer Temple Ballard didn't die because of a malfunction in a carbon-monoxide detector manufactured by Fail-Safe Systems (Swift's new client). So off Swift goes to Babel--the eco-commune where Ballard died while working on his gasification generator. Together with undercover sidekick Sally, the low-key sleuth explores the big question: did someone intentionally deactivate the carbon-monoxide monitor in order to kill Ballard? And, since Ballard was an insatiable bisexual with a long-suffering wife (also bisexual), there are plenty of suspects around at the free-living commune--including lovers, rivals, a religious fanatic (who hates gays), a military-survivalist nut, and Ballard's alienated punkteen son. The solution--reached only after a few too many red herrings swim slowly by--is humdrum, with weak motivation; a bit of tacked-on melodrama (Sally must be rescued from a mad rapist) seems cheesy, as does the maudlin girlfriend-in-coma subplot. But, even if his tired case is long-winded and far from fresh, Swift remains fairly good company: a medium-boiled narrator/hero who's neither funny nor tough--just decent, sturdy, and smart.
Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1986
Page Count: -
Publisher: Mysterious Press--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux