Like the Al Capp character who is always pictured with a black thundercloud over his head, Cecil Younger, probably the least successful private eye in the world and certainly in Sitka, Alaska, is a walking disaster area, in which friends under his care often die and mysteries remain unresolved. No exception here in his sixth misadventure (The Angels Will Not Care, 1998, etc.) that begins with Patricia Ewers begging him to find her missing husband Richard. Cecil’s not terribly interested; he expended over a year, plus a five-month trial, on Richard three years ago, convinced he was not guilty of killing two adults and two children, but having little success in bringing the real perp to justice. But that’s before Patricia assaults Kevin and Sean Sands, whose family died in that debacle, and is shot in return by a cop. All too quickly, Sean takes an AK-47 to his schoolyard, where he is shot dead by Cecil’s dad’s best buddy, George Doggy, a retired cop, while Jonathan Chevalier, who lost a brother to that former carnage, stands on a Sitka street corner tossing away large denomination bills, and Kevin kidnaps Cecil’s retarded charge Todd and hightails it to sea aboard The Naked Horse. A storm brews, a sea chase is on, and Cecil, typically, is off course in pursuit of the wrong suspect. A final, wrenching twist leaves two more dead and nudges Cecil closer to accepting a new line of work.
Vivid seamanship, myriad plot skews, intriguing Alaska, and new dad Cecil, the poster boy for angst-riddled, flawed decisions, make this a standout.