A third case takes the ever reluctant “sort of a P.I.” Jake Longly and his girlfriend, Nicole Jamison, from Gulf Shores, Alabama, to a tiny Florida town on what sure looks like a fool’s errand.
Billy Wayne Baker, who’s doing seven consecutive life sentences in the Union Correctional Institute for a two-year spree of rape and murder, insists that he’s the victim of rank injustice: He only killed five of those women. Ordinarily, his protestations would fall on indifferent ears, but they’ve managed to intrigue a wealthy fan who’s willing to pay Longly Investigations, the brainchild of Jake’s father, to revisit Billy Wayne’s checkered history. There are a couple of caveats that would turn away anyone but Jake, whose professed distance from his father keeps getting overridden by his willingness to work with him (A-List, 2017, etc.). Ray Longly’s client wants to remain anonymous, and Billy Wayne refuses to reveal which of his two alleged victims were actually somebody else’s. His averral that he doesn’t want to prejudice the investigation makes no sense, but it does set up the promise of a highly original kind of mystery that, sadly, Lyle resolves before you can bleat “wrongly accused,” narrowing the field of possible outlier victims with indecent haste so that Jake, Ray, and his behemoth operative, Pancake, can get down to the infinitely less interesting business of ignoring more than half the murders in order to place virtually every citizen of Pine Key, Florida, under a microscope, provoking an eighth homicide along the way, so that they can determine whodunit.
If you can overlook the wildly implausible premise, medical specialist Lyle provides suitably gossipy small-town atmosphere, straightforward plotting, a likable, wisecracking hero, and, of course, solid forensics. But that’s an awful lot to overlook.