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Old hand Cook serves up a novelty: a hard-boiled farce. Chico Cervantes, a typical southern Californian P.I., is hired by big deal-maker Thomas Jarrett and D.C. biggie Seymour Silverstein to bring in Francisco ""Paco"" Cruz-Rivera--the driver of the hearse that hit the car that their engaged son and daughter were in, instantly killing them. Silverstein slips Chico a special phone number to use in Mexico if he needs help on the Q.T. Meanwhile, the funeral home in Ensenada claims no knowledge of Paco, nor any interest in him; and Keeney, the original cop on the case, is on Chico's tail (Jarrett's special orders). When they reach Culiacan--following a postcard lead that lands them in the whorehouse room of the pregnant, very young prostitute Alicia Ramirez--Keeney struts tough, and Chico grabs Alicia and runs. Back in his hotel room, Keeney awaits them, his throat slit ear to ear. So Alicia and Chico try to outrun the Federales, and wind up in a shoot-out with Paco's relatives, Ortega the drug kingpin, and other scum; use that Silverstein phone number; rely on the DEA to clean up the messes; and leave the country, just like the drugs, which are at the core of the kids' deaths. The Ensenada funeral-home denouement involves the drug-running dad, the DEA, and several prowl cars, all quibbling about who has jurisdiction. Alicia's Hollywood fantasies are delicious, ditto Chico's attempts to dissuade her from accompanying him, then giving in. Transparent basic plot, however, though clever twists on racism. Cook has a true satirist's flair but needs to temper his mayhem with a soupcon of wit.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1988
Publisher: Watts