A San Francisco private eye fills the time between jazz bass gigs by investigating an art student’s disappearance.
He might not know much about art, but August Riordan (Vulture Capital, not reviewed, etc.) knows what he doesn’t like: sourpuss secretaries, predatory professors, greedy gurus, sanctimonious shrinks and anyone else too impressed with his own importance to appreciate a good wisecrack. What Riordan does like is Ellen Stockwell. He likes her so much that he agrees to search for her daughter, Caroline, who took off mid-semester from the San Francisco Lyceum of Art for parts unknown, even though Ellen’s drunk ex-cop husband alternates between pleading for Riordan’s help and threatening to knock his block off. When Riordan’s friend, cross-dressing singer Chris Duckworth, locates a website on which Caroline and her roommate, Monica Mapa (the girls are known, respectively, as Goth Angel and Goth Succubus), cavort in an assortment of bustiers and solicit “donations” from viewers, Riordan suspects that one of the donors may know more about Caroline’s disappearance than he’s admitted online. But Riordan’s an old-fashioned kind of guy—he doesn’t even carry a cell phone—and he thinks a Glock is better than a browser any day for cruising the information highway.
Coggins’s well-crafted cast of characters, led by his smart-stepping shamus, deserve better than the standard serial-red-herrings plot to let them show their stuff.