A California private eye’s investigation of a questionable suicide leads to a clandestine club and a series of murders in Cassiday’s (Wipeout, 2017, etc.) mystery-thriller.
When horror novelist Bart Dillinger realizes that his girlfriend, Jackie Merced, has been missing without a trace since the previous night, he’s reluctant to call the cops. He fears that they’ll think he’s overreacting; what if she’s just stranded somewhere with a dead cellphone battery? So he hires PI Ethan Carr, who verifies that Jackie is, sadly, dead. Cops recently found her shot to death in a car submerged in the ocean; amazingly, they write it off as suicide, theorizing that she shot herself while simultaneously driving off a cliff. Neither Carr nor Dillinger buy that, so the PI stays on the case. It turns out Jackie belonged to the Russian Club, a secret organization whose membership requires another member’s recommendation. Carr attempts to infiltrate it while also trying to tie Jackie’s death with two other victims, who also died from gunshots to the head. Then he comes home to find human eyeballs nailed to his front door. As if that weren’t enough, someone later tosses a stick of dynamite into his car—while he’s inside it. Brief chapters and short, punchy dialogue give Cassiday’s story a consistently brisk tempo. This is particularly effective during Carr’s rapid-fire interrogations of various people, including his own client. Dillinger, too, is a sensational character; his need to learn what happened to Jackie seemingly, and intriguingly, competes with his yearning for a successful writing career. The possibility that Dillinger might be headed toward a mental collapse later becomes a potent subplot—one that overshadows the main investigation, which becomes stagnant. However, a late introduction of a villainous character ramps up the menace, and the wrap-up of Carr’s case, and the grim coda, are memorable.
A fast-paced detective novel, enhanced by exceptional characters and a striking ending.