In Trolson’s (A Passing Curse, 2012) new crime novel, a damaged, dangerous, and relentlessly drinking West Coast cop needs to find answers after heads literally start to roll—with his name carved into them.
It’s the 1990s, and if Southern California–based homicide detective Jack Wainwright isn’t drinking, he isn’t awake. Excessive imbibing, however, doesn’t hamper him from easily bedding women roughly half his age. He lives in his inherited “Moorish castle knock-off” that he shares with his septuagenarian uncle, Max, who’s said to have had ties to Adolf Hitler. In the ’60s, Jack served in Vietnam as part of Team Viking, a group of soldier-assassins that tested stamina-enhancing drugs under the supervision of psychiatrist Lucius King. Now, two dismembered former Team Viking members have just been unearthed on Jack’s neighbor’s property, with the name “Charon” carved into their foreheads—Jack’s code name when he was in Vietnam. Also found was a rare, gold swastika pin, which Jack believes belongs to Max. Jack seeks King’s help in solving the recent murders, but he keeps suspicions regarding his uncle a secret. After more members of Team Viking are found murdered, Jack, Max, and King head to Zurich to retrieve King’s hidden memoirs, written long ago, which the psychiatrist says should reveal who wanted the former soldiers dead. Hard-edged dialogue is typical for this book. Before the trio leave for Switzerland, for instance, Jack’s housekeeper warns him, “The doctor is trouble and that old man your uncle is not stable. You watch them.” Later, Jack also hooks up with a girl in a jazz club; she thinks that Jack’s home state of California is near Florida: “No. It’s on the other side of the country,” he says, continuing, “Florida’s like a redneck California.” Trolson also offers vivid descriptions: “[He] finished the heel from a half-pint of Popov vodka, drinking it hot and straight and whistling when he was done.” The plot is absorbing and complicated—for example, when it starts, King is a confessed, institutionalized serial killer—and this results in quickly turned pages.
Nazis, noir, and a soupçon of boudoir combine to make this a memorable thriller.