More than the freezing weather in snowy Syracuse, N.Y., is making life tough sledding for pet shop owner and quasi-detective Robin Light (Rubbed Out, 2002, etc.).
Because Noah’s Ark, Robin’s pet store, isn’t paying the bills, she’s working part-time at Shamus’s, a gritty bar patronized by losers of every stripe. Worse, her relationship with long-time lover George Sampson is on the skids. It feels like the last straw when crackhead Freddy Sanchez shows up at the bar trying to sell collars stolen from her store. When Freddy is found shot, enigmatic bar owner Ian Yates asks Robin to see what she can uncover. The police think the murder is gang-related, but Robin realizes that it’s not so simple. Freddy’s mother claims he was perfect and wants to sue for defamation. But who supplied Freddy with that fancy computer, iPod, electronic chess set and pricey labradoodle? Robin urges her recalcitrant jalopy around the icy streets searching for answers among crack houses, bars and suburban labradoodle owners. Input from her pal Calli, troubled teenaged shop assistant Manuel, diverse lawless characters and members of Freddy’s dysfunctional family point her in the right direction, though it takes Ian to close the case.
All those dark, frigid days and Robin’s gloomy prospects make for a depressing tale, but one with enough twists and turns to make sharing Robin’s blues worthwhile.