Melancholic, existentially adrift, and as solitary as Crusoe before the advent of Friday, Wiley’s in a bad way—a given, of course, in a novel so quintessentially noir. He earns a hardscrabble living playing poker, staking himself as the need arises by ambushing drug dealers and stripping them of their ill-gotten gains. And that’s when life is just normally rotten. It deteriorates when Wiley’s daughter Lizzie, adored though estranged for over a year, is found dead in a sleazy motel room, her throat slit by a remorseless sociopath named Fernando, who kills faster than most people blink, mostly because he’s very, very good at it. At first Wiley places the blame squarely on an old pal of his and sets out to find him. Leon, a figure of some repute in the underworld of Portland, Oregon, was once Lizzie’s lover, and Wiley believes he done Lizzie wrong, leaving her easy prey for the ruthless Fernando. When Leon convinces him that he’s wrong, they join forces to get revenge. Complicating the hunt for Fernando, however, is the fact that he has friends of a sort in high places. As the central figure in a carefully planned major drug bust, Fernando has been promised protection and a bunch of money by the DEA. So the game’s afoot: a struggle for Fernando between the federal government, who speaks on behalf of the greater good, and Wiley, for whom it’s strictly personal.
Plotholes here and there, but a creditable debut by a writer who speaks fluent noir.