A giant of the digital world has died, but his daughter doesn't believe he's dead (text messages from the afterlife feeding her belief), and she turns to a Silicon Valley private eye to uncover the truth.
What follows from that relatively standard premise is a genre version of what the literary critic James Wood has dismissed as the maximalist approach to fiction—books stuffed with so much invention that nary a sentence or plot turn or even a character name can pass by without demanding the reader's soon exhausted appreciative intention. The shamus here, William "Fitch" Fitzgerald, has the genre requirement of being slightly outside of (i.e., better than) the world he winds up immersed in. Amid techies desperate to remain ahead of the next digital curve, Fitch carries a flip phone. His sign of outsider status is less that he's gay (there have been gay detective novels for 40 years now) than that he's married, happily. That is the most original stroke here, a repudiation of the decree that every private eye be a lone wolf. The plot proceeds as most detective fiction does, the sleuth running into a series of characters and, inevitably, danger on the road to ironing out a balled-up plot. But as Fitch goes from character to character, so the book goes from genre to genre: It's a hard-boiled homage; it's a Hiaasen-esque farce; it's a satire of those wacky digital types—none of it believable, all eager to delight, and quickly tiring.
As the time for spring cleaning approaches, the confusion of genres here requires urgent attention.