A debut crime novel that focuses far more on comedy than mystery.
Robinson’s first-person narrator shares the author’s name but insists on being called “Careless,” a nickname earned during a drunken night in college. It’s a moniker that reflects his current persona fairly accurately: a young, single guy from Houston who takes his iced coffee with a couple of shots of Jack Daniel’s and works at his family’s steel company. He narrates the story in a tone that wavers between admirable effortlessness and wearisome flippancy, but he’s a well-defined, mostly entertaining character, despite the novel’s relatively unfocused storyline. Roughly the first 200 pages deal primarily with Careless’ caring relationship with his dog, Dudley, who clearly fills an emptiness in Careless’ life. The rest of this section largely details the mundane activities of Careless; his friends, Birk and Sarge; and his attractive neighbor, E.D. She’s often the target of Careless’ advances, which she tolerates with amusement, but readers may find that their interactions become exhausting; for example, Careless expresses that if he had his way, E.D. would be “felt up from the belt up.” There are a handful of other jokes that also overstay their welcome, including one based on Careless’ fascination with the planet Uranus. The eventual mystery plotline is relegated to the final 50 pages or so, when Jake Harm, lead singer of Jake Harm and the Holdouts, is abducted by a deranged fan before a concert attended by Careless and his friends. A detective soon gives Careless an unrealistic amount of authority to direct the investigation—solely based on Birk’s endorsement of Careless’ knack for observation. Careless doesn’t disappoint, solving the crime almost instantly; he even extracts key information from the abductor by threatening to have Dudley slobber on her. This plotline develops much too quickly, however, and feels detached from the rest of the narrative. Careless himself suggests that the subplot is meant to introduce a new series, based on his new role as a consulting detective. If this is the case, the novel serves its purpose, if a little late.
An unfocused crime novel, but an entertaining tale of companionship.