In this debut thriller, a California courier becomes immersed in a conspiracy of greed, missing persons, and powerful individuals who view murder as an occasional necessity.
Monk Buttman is simply delivering a couple of messages one day for the law firm Aeschylus and Associates. But on returning to the law office, he witnesses a murder and the killer leaving with a bag containing $25,000. Marsyas Durant, who works at the firm, asks Monk for discretion so the courier only tells the authorities he found the body. Durant then enlists Monk to track down the culprit, as the money taken was intended for A and A’s client Johnny Dulcimer. Monk teams up with Dulcimer’s associate Mr. Jones and also looks into the unexplained disappearance of Martin Delashay, another A and A client. It’s abundantly clear dangerous people are somehow involved, as two goons attack Monk. But what exactly they’re after is a mystery the protagonist struggles to unravel, though it may be greed; one theory suggests possible money laundering at Delashay’s software company, Sphere. Monk soon fears that the next time someone assaults him, the encounter will be more lethal than a beating. Meanwhile, he further complicates his life by juggling potential relationships with his neighbor Joanie; Dulcimer’s receptionist, Agnes; and Delashay’s wife, Judith. In this mystery series opener, Pearce’s plot is unquestionably convoluted, including the reason Durant asks Monk to investigate. But Monk’s first-person perspective is an easy-to-follow narrative, adequately keeping in check the novel’s copious characters. He’s likewise an intriguing protagonist with a curious backstory, most notably the fact that his father, Moses, runs a commune. There’s even an extended sequence with Monk and Agnes that deftly delves into both of their thorny pasts. But the book does run a bit too long, as it puts the mystery on the back burner just prior to the final act. Still, the author sublimely illustrates quieter moments throughout the story: “The sun, omnipotent and persistent, drove me from my fitful slumber and my comfy bed. I saw no reason to get up.”
A tangled but engrossing mystery populated by dynamic characters.