In Baum’s (Point and Shoot, 2006) latest thriller, private eye and bodyguard Lock Tourmaline returns to solve the murder of a client’s brother, killed in prison.
When inmate Jason Heung’s burned body turns up in a prison dumpster, Lock agrees to find the person(s) responsible. After all, he heads the security detail for Jason’s sister, Susan, whose fiance, Henry Cho, is Lock’s old cop buddy. Notorious criminal Cousin Bodacious is the immediate suspect since, it seems, Jason was informing on him to the police. But others, like Bodacious’ employee Len LeFontant, suggest that Susan is behind the murder, and for the same reason. Her brother would have buckets of dirt if the speculation of the Heung family’s ties to drug distribution were true. Lock’s PI skills help with his investigation, but it’ll take much more to protect himself and loved ones from Bodacious’ cronies and Kim Jaegyu, a suspicious Korean also looking into Jason’s death. But Lock, a practitioner of Shaolin Kempo karate—which derives techniques from other styles such as traditional karate and jujitsu—and other martial arts, is most certainly capable. Mixing mystery and thriller, the plot has shades of drama, romance for Lock, and humor mostly from Len, so over-the-top offensive that it’s comical. Lock’s trying to wrangle homemade porn DVDs—starring his ex-wife Lori—from Len is its own subplot. Lock is all over the place, both professionally (detective, former cop, bodyguard, martial arts instructor) and personally (a widower with a girlfriend and another potential love interest). But he and the murder mystery are unfortunately some of the least interesting aspects of the book. He’s overshadowed by terrific stories involving Lori’s dilemma and Lock’s elderly teacher, who sleeps 20 hours a day and is close to death. Supporting characters are likewise fascinating, particularly scene-stealer Len; Lock’s 19-year-old stepdaughter, Bette, who teaches his classes for him; and even Bodacious, whose influence is evident despite his never appearing in the storyline. The book ends with a stunner, ensuring that a third mystery is on its way.
Lock and the mystery have little impact, but they’re surrounded by colorful characters and regaling tales.