Forced out of his position as a shipboard waiter after three murders on his cruise ship (Sunny Side Up, 2018) roil the waters, Liam Johnson finds a new entry-level job that involves him in another homicide.
Li isn’t looking for employment at Esther’s Family Grocery, but Reuben Rodriguez, who’s already working there, is so outrageously friendly and encouraging to him that he’s soon hired by store manager Leo Lewis, ne Leonard Lewitski. He gets a considerably less warm welcome from Oscar Lindstrom, the splenetic restaurant critic who’s just left his job at the Shorewood Gazette. Li’s first meeting with Oscar ends when he dresses Oscar down for his racist insults of Reuben. Their second meeting ends with Li shouting for someone to call the police after he finds Oscar bashed to death in the grocery’s spice aisle. Except for Oscar’s adoring third wife, Kathryn Lindstrom, pretty much everyone in California seems to have hated Oscar, from Jason Lindstrom, his pitifully abused son, to Frank Dixon, his editor at the Gazette, to Constance Henderson, the mayor’s wife. Ignoring all these promising suspects, Detective Antoine Hughes becomes more and more convinced that Reuben is the killer he’s looking for, and when he detains the young man and his brother, Fernando, Li knows he has to do something to help them. But the mystery of Oscar’s death remains puzzling even though every character Stallings presents is so remarkably forthright in expressing their feelings about him—Oscar’s ex-lover Miranda Raglietti calls him “a critic to his soul,” for instance, and Jason tells Hughes, “Dad was a monster”—that the biggest mystery is how anyone could have killed him without leaving a trail a mile wide.
Have no fear: The Minimum Wage Manhunter eventually produces a solution as ingenious as it is unlikely.