A private eye’s probe of a carnival murder lands him in the crosshairs of local power-brokers.
While attending a local carnival with his new girlfriend Phoebe Kelly, Lowell (Mass.) shamus Alex Rasmussen happens upon the strangled body of young Flora Nunez. Carnival roustabout Troy Pepper, Flora’s on-and-off boyfriend, is arrested for the crime. When the court appoints the lawyer of Alex’s neighbor Fred Meecham Pepper, he hires Alex to investigate. His affection for the carnival and its ailing owner, Pop Sonders, and a gut feeling that Pepper is innocent keep Alex pounding the pavement despite a dearth of evidence. Pepper, who’s been in minor scrapes all his life, offers little explanation and seems resigned to a conviction. Everything Alex learns about Pepper and Flora cuts both ways. Pepper, everybody agrees, had a troubled past but was settling in comfortably with the carnival; Flora, say dueling witnesses, was either deathly afraid of Pepper or planning to marry him. All the while, Alex tries to love Phoebe as much as he does Lauren, the woman he’s rebounding from. The investigation gains traction when Alex begins looking into pressure on the carnival that sends Pop to the hospital. The solution lies deep within a compromised police and judiciary who don’t respond at all nicely to Alex’s curiosity.
Daniel (Goofy Foot, 2004, etc.) still writes like a dream but lets his plot ramble.