A 1970s private eye investigates the attack of a human-controlled snake on a starlet in the adult film industry.
Now that Edgar Vance, his mentor in the magical arts, has been laid to rest in Inglewood Park Cemetery, newly minted shamus James Brimstone is ready to commit himself to his new gig. Brimstone uses the funeral to drum up business, and by the end of the day, he’s already working his first case. Vulnerable starlet Nico wants Brimstone’s help in unraveling a mystery that may be too weird for the police. While filming a skin flick earlier in the day with veteran actress Maxine Graham—the graphic details of which Nico obligingly supplies for the titillation of the detective and the reader—Nico claims that Maxine attacked her. Nor was this an ordinary attack: a snake emerged from Maxine’s mouth and bit Nico’s face, producing two scars and sending Nico running in fear for her life. A man familiar with the occult, Brimstone is more intrigued than afraid. His investigation takes several paths, as he thinks up crafty ruses, beds Nico’s colleagues, and studies obscure Japanese erotica for answers. Perhaps that’s what investigating was like in the '70s. Brimstone faces danger in his quest, but he’s remarkably capable both physically and mentally, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s able to tie the mystery to its larger motive, which of course is really all about him.
The retro setting matches the story’s sensibilities, and Ridler’s (Rise of the Luchador, 2014, etc.) quick and clever wit is overshadowed by his leering views of women.