A San Francisco private investigator’s search for purloined valuables gets him entangled with mobsters and murder in Kennealy’s (Beggar’s Choice, 2013, etc.) latest mystery.
Law firm Feveral & Lenahan calls PI Nick Polo to find Al Lamas, a stress-relief consultant who’s suspected of stealing from Paul Bernier, a highly-valued client for the firm. Lamas allegedly swiped a 15th-century chauri, or flywhisk, that was insured for $1 million. Bernier also wants Nick to recover something else that Lamas took, as discreetly as possible: a priceless kukri (a Nepalese dagger). Unsurprisingly, Lamas, who has a criminal record for drug-dealing, is nowhere to be found, but Nick learns that he’s been known to hang out at a nightclub, Noche, run by Joe Sarco, an ex-cop with mob ties. Nick uses his copious connections, including antiques expert Malene Tasse, who’s well-known for mixing with art thieves, and police inspector Bob Tehaney, whose boss, Lt. Judy Loesser, has a special animosity for the PI. Nick is willing to commit the occasional lesser crime to get the job done, such as breaking and entering, but things get decidedly more complicated when police discover a dead body—with Nick’s card in his pocket. Kennealy’s returning detective is a marvelous character. Despite the fact that he’s done an eight-month stretch in prison for misappropriating evidence, he isn’t the hardened character that readers may anticipate. In fact, he’s quite charming and magnanimous, even leasing one of his inherited flats to Mrs. Damonte, a self-proclaimed witch who doesn’t pay nearly enough in rent. He’s a curious blend of old-school and contemporary, using a fax machine and an answering service but also snapping photos with a handy iPhone. The mystery at hand is replete with double-crossings and myriad suspects, including Sarco’s cronies and Bernier’s employees and indifferent, adopted daughter. There are also strong female secondary characters, including Malene and Mrs. Damonte, as well as informative police receptionist, Dolores Compos. The best scene, an attempt to buy a stolen item, exemplifies the book’s tone, as it’s as unexpected as it is hilarious.
A cheeky tale with a detective who both embraces and defies tradition.