After 17 years, Straley checks back in with Cecil Younger and the citizens of Sitka, Alaska, and finds them as wacky as ever and even more murderous—a description that applies this time to Cecil as well.
When criminal defense investigators for the Public Defender Agency find themselves in courthouses, it’s not unusual for them to say, “If it please the Court,” as Cecil does in opening his narrative. But his following words—“Your Honors, I stand before you today to tell the story of what happened”—broadly hint from the beginning that he’s in court in a somewhat different capacity than usual. There follows what must surely be the longest, strangest allocution in history or fiction or even in the annals of Straley’s cockeyed investigator (Cold Water Burning, 2001, etc.). Nine months after Melissa Bean, a fellow high school student of Cecil’s daughter, Blossom, goes missing, her body is found, and Sherri Gault is arrested for her murder. The arrest puts Cecil in an awkward situation for several reasons. Sherri has been a repeat client of his; her longtime partner, a lowlife known as Sweeper who’s been an even more frequent client, is eager to sign on as an informant after the latest of his countless arrests; domestic violence charges seem possible for both parties. Things get even worse when Sherri sends Cecil to visit a hotel room she’s stayed in to collect some important evidence, which turns out to be a box stuffed with money. Clearly there’s more going on here than the usual revolving door of low-level felonies, and the current gets both muddier and more urgent when Blossom and her friend Thistle disappear as well, casting Cecil, who’s barely competent as an investigator, as a righteously violent avenger.
A waggish, hallucinatory, blood-soaked demonstration of the maxims collected in the titular Baby’s First Felony, a brief, fully illustrated do-it-yourself manual for stupid criminals that’s helpfully appended after the judges’ verdict on the hero.