Hollywood detectives catch the strange case of a brutally burned body.
Detective Tully Jarsdel is a former academic, leading his partner, Morales, to call him Professor. When he fights his way through multiple news crews to reach a corpse one day, it's unlike any he’s ever seen. The body is twisted, partially ravaged, and burned so badly it’s unrecognizable. Jarsdel and Morales intensely question Dustin Sparks, the horror-movie special-effects expert who found the body. He eventually admits that he saw the body being dumped from a van, but his addiction to OxyContin makes him a compromised witness. While waiting for DNA results, Jarsdel and Morales watch missing persons reports closely. An odd red disk glued to the victim’s palm turns out to be a 1996 quarter painted red: the case’s first clue, albeit a murky one. DNA connects the victim to grizzled convict Lawrence Wolin, who identifies the man as his brother. The pieces of Grant Wolin’s life come together via interviews prompted by a search of his dirty apartment. He sold jars of “genuine Hollywood dirt” on the street, smoked marijuana occasionally, and was apparently asexual. A dinner scene at the home of Jarsdel’s scholarly parents provides insight into his psyche and his sense of isolation. Though he fits in with neither the gritty world of police work nor the ivory tower of academia, he has a passion for justice.
Schneider’s debut enlivens the police procedural with offbeat characters and an appealingly complex hero.