Can Pepper Keane, the philosopher/investigator who was the weakest link in The Fractal Murder (2004), make it without a single fractal in sight? You bet he can.
Karlynn Slade is turning state’s evidence against her common-law husband, survivalist criminal Thaddeus Bugg, who heads the biker gang the Sons of Satan when he’s not manufacturing meth or organizing prostitutes. But since Karlynn refuses to go into the Witness Protection Program without Prince, Bugg’s bluetick coonhound, her lawyer, Matt Simms, hires Pepper to steal the dog and babysit Karlynn. So far so good, even though one of the Sons of Satan spots Pepper and his charge before she’s even moved into his place. But although Bugg mysteriously declines to come after his wife and dog with guns blazing, the case gets considerably more complicated when Karlynn, bridling at getting relocated from scenic Colorado to Iowa City, slips the leash and takes off on her own. Pepper and his bud Scott McCutcheon track her as far as Twin Falls, Idaho, but the trail goes cold just as Pepper’s getting sidetracked by the chance to find the Idaho skinhead who murdered his copy brother. Several more changes in plan and direction follow, with Cohen keeping the action fast and furious and overlooking niceties like linear plot and narrative logic.
A lot more Travis McGee than Pepper’s striking debut, but none the worse for all that.