Blank (Trouble in Bay Town, 2017) returns in this second offering in the Sonny Knight mystery series, featuring a likable, slightly cocky sleuth with a trademark Panama hat.
Trent Simmons, 34, is a worker in the municipal building in the small city of Bay Town whose job involves reviewing building permits. After he’s badly beaten, he’s visited in the hospital by police detective Bobby Simko and, of course, private investigator Sonny Knight, who happens to be in the building visiting his grandfather. In his final lucid moment before dying, Simmons points to the television to identify his killer. On the screen is the image of Stelton Pike, an unelected political bigwig who’s giving an interview to handsome news anchor Richard Richards. Pike, a close friend of Mayor Wilson Axelrod, has a most unsavory reputation. Bobby and his partner, Livingston “Liv” Hunter, ask Sonny to work with them on the investigation. Back at Sonny’s office, located 17 steep steps above a shoe store, the PI finds a new client waiting for him. Dressed from head to toe in black, except for her bright-red shoes, Ruby Redstone needs help getting access to her deceased brother’s safe-deposit box at the local bank. The box turns out to be empty, and Sonny’s two cases soon ominously merge. Blank once again spins a well-paced tale, this time focusing on government corruption, embezzlement, and secret romantic liaisons. Joining the usual cast—which includes Sonny’s receptionist, Cookie, who compensates for her boss’s aversion to computers and cellphones, and Sonny’s girlfriend, Dr. Brooke Lynne Lane—is a new, quirky supporting character, Sammy the Rag Man, whose daily perambulations make him privy to some intriguing secrets. Blank is a fine storyteller, and he maintains a steady pace throughout this novel, gradually weaving an assortment of narrative threads into a tale that initially seems to be leading to an obvious conclusion. However, he effectively turns readers’ assumptions on their heads, ending it all with an explosive surprise.
A satisfying sequel featuring an enjoyable crime fighter and more banter than bullets.