In Gossett’s (A Year in Fear, 2013) latest thriller, an investigator who’s lost his PI license puts his sleuthing skills to work while eluding the IRS.
Unlicensed PI Lance Walker is living as a transient in 1994 New York. The IRS, suspecting that he was a money launderer because of his cash-only bank deposits, seized everything Walker had after he refused to give his clients’ names. He’s kept under the radar since then, but an IRS agent warns him that Whittaker, a Texas transfer, is hoping to make a name for himself by finally nailing Walker. The unlicensed gumshoe may have to steer clear of “IRS mopes,” but that doesn’t stop him from taking jobs, including finding both a teen runaway and a shrink’s possibly violent patient. Now if Walker could just get the IRS off his back. Gossett’s novel benefits from a fine protagonist who handles his dilemma like a consummate professional. Walker’s impeccable memory, for instance, allows him to mentally adjust his taxable income following every expense, no matter how small (yes, he prefers cash, but he still pays his taxes). Dodging the IRS has forced Walker to employ inventive ways to operate, such as using his lawyer sister Janet as a quasi-receptionist who takes his calls at her office. Gossett crams his pages with even more jobs for Walker: someone making fraudulent allegations against a businessman, and a woman, reputedly married to client Sofia’s late husband, staking a claim to his police pension. The various cases are masterfully incorporated, as Walker juggles his investigations and the story keeps moving at a steady pace. Female characters are unfortunately a bit lacking. Most are eye candy for the PI, who tends to notice little more than physical attributes. One potentially fascinating scene, in which Walker relaxes Sofia to help sharpen her memory, is nullified when the narrative makes a superfluous point of mentioning the woman’s “abundant chest.” But the book does conclude by hinting at romance for Walker, so there’s a chance he’ll learn some respect.
Any detective who can manage this many jobs in one story is practically begging for a series. Here’s hoping.