In Wahlberg’s debut thriller, a vigilance committee in Venice tries to thwart a criminal organization involved in counterfeiting, prostitution, and murder.
Ty Malone manages The Rose, an office complex acting as headquarters for a group of citizens determined to “correct injustices” when cops can’t help. Those injustices include what happened to union-labor organizer Alfred Martinelli, who was threatened by Latvian mobsters after asking about Brenegers, a store selling counterfeit fashion merchandise. But this could just be the beginning: Ty links the same thugs to a missing girl who may be the same one found murdered on the beach, and Brenegers’ sordid designer Luzarre seems to be behind an escort service. When Uncle Rocco enlists Ty to protect a $1 million necklace for a fashion show Rocco has financed, Ty catches wind of a plan to steal the jewelry and decides to stop it from happening. Keeping up with all the subplots and characters is initially a chore: there are plenty of vigilance committee members, like accountant Nick, and of course the slew of baddies involved with Brenegers and the upcoming fashion show. But Wahlberg has a clear protagonist in Ty, the equivalent of a private eye walking the streets or, in this case, Venice Beach. There’s likewise an unmistakable focus on the potential theft, an investigation that, through questioning, leads Ty to uncover much of the criminals’ activities. As a detective, Ty is delightfully unconventional; in one scene, he garners info from someone with a faux Tarot reading—skills he picked up from fortuneteller Madame Winnette, a resident of The Rose. But Ty’s greatest asset is Sweetlips, his dog, who eases tension and melts hearts by, for instance, placing her head on a lieutenant’s knee and gazing up into his eyes. It’s a shame Ty doesn’t take Sweetlips everywhere, generally opting to have friends dogsit. Wahlberg’s deliberately convoluted plot does unfortunately sideline some of the narrative. The murder that opened the novel, for example, is ultimately the least significant crime Ty looks into; near the end he designates a person(s) who’s “probably” the killer.
A dizzyingly fun array of characters and twists, perfect for a one-sitting read.