Olympic swimmer Barrett’s debut stars—wait for it—a disgraced former swimmer hired to find, um, a missing swimmer.
Duck Darley used to be a contender. When they were in school together, he beat his teammate Charlie McKay in every heat. Now things have changed. Charlie’s won four Olympic medals; Duck, stung by his late father’s conviction for fraud, has taken up drinking, drugs, and prison. Even now that he’s out of jail, his record keeps him from getting a private eye’s license and allows him to call himself only a “Finder and Consultant.” Duck’s life becomes a lot more interesting when Charlie’s mother, imperishable MILF Margaret McKay, asks him to find her missing daughter. Though Madeline McKay is as talented as her brother, she isn’t nearly as disciplined, and she’s left behind a trail as garishly cluttered as that of any other overprivileged wild child. That trail is lit up even more starkly by the death of her boyfriend, NYU student filmmaker James Fealy, who gets comprehensively slashed before Duck has a chance to talk to him. Instead he talks to Angela Jones, the madam and porn producer who owns Fallen Angels, where Maddie’s rumored to have sought work; Teddy Marks, the legendary swimming coach he and Charlie used to swim for, who acts as if he’s being seriously blackmailed; and Anna Lisko, one of Teddy’s assistants. (All right, he does more than talk to Anna.) For his pains, Duck gets beaten up by a thug with a foreign accent, attacked by a duo who nearly stab and bite him to death, and imprisoned in a deceptively stylish Greenwich Village dungeon.
Barrett’s first-person narrative has a music of its own, and his alcoholic hero, just two drinks away from seeking his next fix, is appealingly vulnerable even if the improbable pile of unspeakable felonies here will mainly bring to mind your mother’s admonition: don’t go near the water.