It was a rotten day for insurance-claims investigator California "Cal" Brantley: her car was rear-ended, a p.i. with attitude
she was uncomfortably attracted to was transferred to her home office, and she learned her company had been sold to Worldwide
Investigation, which does things strictly by the rules. Assigned to investigate the strangulation of a four-year-old boy on a Reno
casino escalator, Cal is paired with hotshot, in-your-face Denny Wickerstaff. The two discover that the boy was sandwiched in
between two women, neither of whom reacted when his jacket got caught in the escalator mechanism; that a witness with a large
hunting knife raced forward to attempt to cut the boy loose, to no avail; and that the casino experienced a robbery and the murder
of one of its new dealers on the same day as the accident. As Cal and Denny zoom from one end of the desert to the other, in
and out of abandoned mining towns, fleabag motels, and state-sanctioned whorehouses, Cal is also trying to track down Tony
Lasio, an old school chum who has decided to commit suicide in Nevada. While Cal keeps missing Tony and settles for a
one-night stand with a freelance writer, someone is slashing Denny to bits in his motel bed. With incredible (as in unbelievable)
feats of deduction and circumstance, Cal resolves the casino brouhaha in a manner guaranteeing the insurance company will not
have to pay out one red cent.
A poorly thought-out first effort from the winner of St. Martin's 1998 private-eye contest: noir touches and saccharine
romantic notions make incompatible companions.