In Kalina’s debut mystery, the host of a popular radio program races against time to unravel his family’s secrets and bring a notorious Nazi war criminal to justice.
Psychologist Isaac “Ike” Miller’s career is on a roll as the host of “Psych ’n’ Roll,” a successful radio call-in program that combines practical advice with classic rock. However, he’s haunted by memories of his father, a guitarist for Neil Young’s band who was the victim of a drug-related murder. He draws strength from his relationships with his friends, colleagues and family, particularly his grandfather Otto Sperber, a psychoanalyst. Otto is part of a group of Auschwitz survivors that includes Ike’s paternal grandfather Avram. After two other members of the group, Baruch Gittlestein and Hymie Safier, die under mysterious circumstances, Ike learns of the group’s connection to a Nazi doctor named Antonin Helm. Soon, Ike and Otto find themselves the targets of Helm and his family, and as Ike delves further into his family’s past in a quest to bring Helm to justice, his life is complicated by a growing attraction to a mysterious, beautiful woman named Aja Connolly. The mystery boasts strong characters; Ike, for example, is an effective protagonist who’s caring, compassionate and aware of his potential weaknesses, and he’s surrounded by a well-drawn group of friends and colleagues (including producer Tony Keyes and Ike’s high school friend Jamal Jamison). The story also effectively uses music throughout, and Kalina includes a discography of the songs he references in the book. However, the central mystery is unevenly executed; the opening chapters ably balance character development and back story, and the action moves briskly, but the ending is abrupt, and some plot twists are rather predictable.
A fast-paced, if occasionally implausible, mystery buoyed by a likable hero.