Jack Liffey is not your standard-issue private eye. He’s a species virtually unto himself. “I rescue kids,” he tells his skeptical ex-wife, realizing he’s blowing smoke. “I save kids from things, I find kids.” To Jack, that’s a task amounting to a reason for being. This fifth time out (The Orange Curtain, 2001, etc.), he’s charged, as he often is, with finding kids nobody believes will be found alive. Young, black Amilcar Davis and his white girlfriend, Sherry, both college students, vanished two months ago after an ugly confrontation with members of a notorious biker gang famous for blatant racism and hair-trigger violence. The official investigation is now at half-throttle, though the cops won’t admit it. Even Amilcar’s devoted parents seem resigned to what they most fear. But Jack takes on the quest like a throwback Galahad chasing the Grail. His search involves him with a large sample of California crazies: white supremacists, of course, but also black separatists, the Christian Right, and a hyper, scared LA on the edge of still another ethnic explosion. In the process, he loses his own beloved daughter, finds her, loses his lover, perhaps permanently, and gets beaten up, chewed on by dogs, and shot, almost fatally. As for Amilcar and Sherry . . . well, the quest was never really about them anyway.
As always, Shannon’s in there stretching the genre, but endless talk and a diffuse plot cost him dearly here.