A wisecracking disabled investigator rousts the Russian Mafia, Boston branch, to find a murderer.
Gorgeous Vanessa Patterson hires p.i. Jake Thunder, who’s confined to a wheelchair, to find the killer of her sister Melinda, the lover of local Russian Mafia foot soldier Don Woolery. Responding to Vanessa’s inappropriate comments about his disability (he was injured in Somalia while serving as a special ops commando for the Air Force) and professional competence with prickly pride, the smitten Jake earns the job. Valuable assistance comes from veteran Boston homicide detective Frank McCloskey, who provides information and banters with him as freely as a longtime partner. According to Vanessa, her sister urged Woolery to go straight, and Melinda’s execution-style murder certainly points to the Russian mob. But when Jake, after a comic face-off with a dim bodyguard named Viktor, finally wins a sitdown with local boss Darmov, he gets a different story. Darmov tells him that Melinda herself wanted to control Darmov’s kidnapping ring and tried to get him out of the way to usurp his power. Verifying Darmov’s story and sharing it with the woman he’s falling for are just two of the challenges facing Jake. Someone’s also trying to kill him.
Jake’s lickety-split narrative manages to be both gritty and cheeky. Prolific Merz (From the Borderlands, 2004, etc.) overloads his simple tale with dialogue but still pulls off an effective surprise twist.