Private investigator Luke Jacobs exposes a chilling corporate conspiracy while seeking to free a jailed lawyer friend in this latest installment of a New Orleans mystery series by Mask (The French Quarter, 2013, etc.).
Luke is excited. A key witness has come out of the woodwork, which may help his quest to free Jake Matos, a lawyer pal convicted of killing a cop after being pulled over by police over four years ago. The PI then gets a mystery summons to a meeting about Jake, only to encounter a threatening henchman. Visiting Jake in jail, Luke senses the lawyer is hiding something, perhaps scared into silence. Luke breaks into Jake’s house and finds some odd microscope slides. He asks Melvin Jenkins, a retired forensic pathologist, to examine the materials. While awaiting these findings, Luke pieces together that Jake was pursuing cases that may have posed major problems for mogul Fred Von Tepp and his Mega Alcohol Network. With further assists from his hot doctor girlfriend, a sexy Latina forensics student, a Times-Picayune journalist, a NASA scientist, and others, Luke finally exposes the stunning secret that led to a big business cover-up, police corruption, and Jake’s wrongful conviction. The Louisiana-based Mask clearly revels in his New Orleans setting. He includes loving descriptions of bayous, gardens and bars, and he presents a hip, bantering cast of racially diverse characters that reflects his city’s party spirit and melting-pot status. Mask’s core mystery also had potential as an inventive, alcoholic counterpart to tobacco company–like malfeasance. Unfortunately, the author is a bit of a victim of his own exuberance. He tosses up too many Mardi Gras beads and too many characters and subplots that are digressive or underdeveloped or both, which takes a toll on the logic and clarity of key aspects of the story. He also provides too little explanatory detail for people who haven’t read the earlier Luke Jacobs books. And while Mask’s syncopated rhythm has its pleasures, many readers may feel exhausted rather than energized by this rollicking yet tangled tale.
Jazz-beat crime fiction that riffs on Big Easy flavor at the expense of a fully coherent plot.