A mysterious phone call from a long-dead thief spells trouble for everyone in PI Dek Elstrom’s neighborhood of Rivertown.
The call, which comes to Dek’s friend Leo Brumsky, must be potent indeed. It makes Leo turn white and go quiet. And when Dek, flush with the kind of optimism you can only get from listening to a first-class motivational speaker like infomercial personality Lester Lance Leamington, returns from an insurance-fraud case in Iowa two days later, Leo has vanished. So have his mother, his girlfriend and her mother too. Harnessing the skills that can barely keep him in Cheerios, Dek traces Endora Wilson and her mother to Eustace Island, miles from anywhere, but it’s a bad mistake; his success has the downside of leading one of the men Leo was fleeing to their hiding place. And when Dek finally does catch up with Leo, he finds him standing over a dead man, a revolver in his hand. From that point on, the story, which entangles everyone who’s ever worked for the Rivertown zoning and inspection office with a Brueghel painting that’s been AWOL since World War II, devolves into a series of episodes in which guys follow other guys who are often themselves following still other guys, with everyone involved armed and dangerous.
If the mystery is less than compelling, Dek (Hunting Sweetie Rose, 2012, etc.) continues to be good company, whether he’s rescuing his ex-wife from kidnappers or playing a divorcing Hollywood couple against each other.