A young cop’s reunion with an old flame is cut short by her murder.
New Jersey police detectives John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, who tells the story in pungent first person, are in Atlantic City taking a deposition to help Ceepak’s estranged father beat a murder charge in Ohio when Boyle runs into his old girlfriend, Katie Landry, who’s now the nanny to the children of flashy magician Richard Rock. Rock headlines a family-friendly show at the Xanadu assisted by his babelicious wife and his kids Richie and Britney. Though she’s dating Jake, a muscle-bound dancer in Rock’s show, Katie agrees to meet Boyle for a drink after the evening performance. Then Ceepak’s dad pleads guilty, abruptly ending the duo’s mission, and Rock’s abrasive manager Zuckerman hires Boyle and Ceepak as extra security for the evening. Lady Jasmine, a magician notorious for stealing her rivals’ best illusions, plans to attend the show with her entourage. When Katie and Jake go AWOL, Rock improvises, but Boyle is suspicious. Rock’s shrewd centerpiece trick, designed to encourage the Xanadu guests to gamble, turns an audience member’s lucky number into a winner. As Rock is tracked by cameras making his way to a gaming table, Boyle slips backstage to find Katie, provocatively dressed and strangled to death.
Though his characters may be shallow, Grabenstein’s sharply arch prose and steady plotting makes Ceepak’s fifth (Hell Hole, 2008, etc.) compulsively readable.