A straightforward murder mystery in the California surf.
Jacob Hickley is inexplicably murdered just after returning to California from a surfing competition in Hawaii. Elsewhere, Pat “Gypo” Nolan, a detective with the Marin County Sheriff’s Department and an avid surfer, is called to investigate when an unidentified body on the beach seems to have been killed with a hypodermic needle. There are seemingly few clues, but as Nolan investigates, he uncovers a lead in suspiciously nervous Philip Stockwell whose father, Lee Stockwell, plans to marry Jacob Hickley’s mother. Add the recent suicide of Amber Stockwell, Philip’s sister, and this becomes a tangled family affair in need of unraveling. Despite the complicated setup, the plot stages no major twists; the actual murder and motive are apparent well before the climax. Initially, the novel flags with superfluous descriptions that rarely support the characters, evoke a mood or contribute to the plot. Fortunately, the relevance of these descriptions improves as the murder investigation progresses. The author introduces a secondary mystery regarding vandalism of a surf shop using decal stickers that say: “Surf Schools are Evil.” It is a welcome twist. Rather than detracting from the main show, this storyline supports the development of both the main character and setting. Except for a couple of theatrical scenes when Nolan confronts the district attorney and when he cracks one of the prime suspects using a Perry Mason–type interrogation, the story feels authentic.
Sustains enough momentum to satisfy mystery fans looking for a little literary escapism.