In this modern noir, a man sets out to discover himself on a road trip only to become mixed up with counterfeiters.
Tommy Kelsey, a mechanic from Gates Mills, Ohio, has just turned 29. After a night of blowout celebration, he realizes that his life is nothing but a quagmire of texting and wasted potential. Impulsively, he hops in his restored 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, packing some mystery novels and his guitar, and drives west. He also tosses his smartphone out the car window—job and relationships be damned. At a Big Boy restaurant, he meets a beautiful, redheaded hitchhiker named Mona. He drives with her to Chicago, agreeing to be her private investigator for three days. She pays him $600 cash from her tightly clutched backpack, and they check into a hotel. In the morning, Mona is gone, and he finds her backpack shoved under the hood of his car. Inside the pack is her phone, a note from Mona asking him to find her, and $500,000. Now Tommy must hone some genuine PI skills if he’s to survive a city known as much for its astonishing murder rate as its blues music. He finds Mona dancing at the Pink Monkey club—but she doesn’t recognize him at all. Klingler (Rats, 2014, etc.) presents his craftiest yarn to date, summoning the pulpy spirits of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The setting of Chicago rattles from the page in lines such as, “The buildings held noise and exhaust fumes around me like a torture chamber.” The author populates his narrative with ingénues (Lizz the librarian, Penny the criminology major, Tracy the groupie) whose engines Tommy easily revs; they also help him with his investigation until he finally starts getting somewhere on his own. Klingler carefully shades in the connections between a murder in an underground Detroit cemetery, a counterfeiting operation, and the hitchhiker with a short memory. Although the final third wanders a bit with Tommy moonlighting as a blues guitarist, the finale offers a thrilling portrait of citywide corruption.
A winning tale of music, technology, and femme fatales.