A young insurance investigator in Washington, D.C., falls into the orbit of a mysterious couple in this overstuffed thriller.
It all starts with a used Porsche. After finding blood stains on the passenger-side floor, new buyer Keith Gwynn decides to track down the previous owner, Tara. She’s cagey; Keith isn’t sure whether to believe that was really animal blood on the car floor. But she’s exotically beautiful and seems interested in Keith, who ignores any red flags—like Sef, the man Tara lives with, a hulking martial arts expert who nevertheless invites Keith to ask Tara out. A steamy romance ensues, with Keith thrilled to parade a gorgeous woman on his arm around D.C.’s hottest spots. But questions remain and concerns grow, especially when Keith snoops through Tara’s bag and finds disturbing connections among Sef, Tara and the ambitious Senator Cobb, all somehow tied to Costa Rica and Myanmar. Debut novelist Keppler surrounds his tale with a good deal of doom-tinged backshadowing, but this long, overwritten book can’t sustain the murders and conspiracies piled upon the central event. Additionally, Keith’s claims of naïve innocence ring false, seeing that he starts things off by buying a Porsche and cheating on his girlfriend. Foolish, yes; innocent, not so much. Keppler’s phrasing can be clumsy or foreign-sounding: “Little later, also Tara and I left [the restaurant].” Another odd choice is describing sex acts in full but using asterisks to denote profanity. Other lines can be a mouthful: “Like a pair of degenerate maggots oblivious to the fate of the organism supporting them, my eyes sucked themselves through the leather and the fabric trying to sense the skin, the flesh, the moisture and the softness that hid underneath.” Keppler makes some knowing observations of the D.C. scene, but they’re sometimes hard to find amid the overcooked prose. A copy editing cleanup wouldn’t hurt, either.
A coming-of-age/femme fatale story that doesn’t quite get where it’s going.