A wisecracking sleuth investigates alleged election fraud in San Francisco.
With his eye firmly on a $10,000 reward offered by the Bay Area Bankers Association for information on a recent spate of ATM robberies, August Riordan tangles with a backhoe, the thieves’ tool and sometime getaway vehicle, causing major damage to the art gallery of Leonora Lee, the Dragon Lady of Chinatown. Unexpectedly, she hires Riordan to dig up the dirt on new touch-screen voting machines, which she believes have been used to defraud voters and deny her chosen candidate the mayoralty. Shortly after a tense phone exchange with Department of Elections director Jerry Bowman, Riordan visits the bureaucrat and finds him dead, a letter opener jammed into his neck. Helped by snappy secretary Gretchen and part-time sidekick Chris Duckworth, techie and drag performer, Riordan proceeds to shake up the local political establishment. Kathleen Wilmott of the Green Party is surprisingly belligerent, but Riordan doesn’t do much better with candidate Alan Chow, the Winston Churchill of Chinatown. During a contentious interview, Chow discovers a bomb, and the two men barely escape the imminent explosion. Death threats, more murders and an assault on Leonora’s daughter, whom Riordan has begun to date, thicken the plot.
Riordan’s fourth caper (Candy from Strangers, 2006, etc.) has a deliciously quirky stable of irregulars and panache to spare.