College grad Willie Tigue, “looking forward to an adventure,” gets one in spades when she is seemingly possessed by a freshly deceased private eye in 1940s Hollywood.
Meegs’ (First Blush, 2017, etc.) supernatural mystery takes a bit to get cooking as two nonconformist college grads contemplate their futures. Betty Moran is headed west to work for her uncle, private eye Skip Ryker. “Lost sheep” Willie Tigue is headed east for graduate school, but her heart isn’t in it. Betty has a better idea, and a dose of knockout drops later, she is off to the Big Apple with Willie’s identity and her treatise, and Willie is on the train to LA. This trading-places scenario might have made for an interesting yarn in its own right. Enter Skip Ryker, your classic hard-boiled Hollywood private detective. He drives a Packard Clipper “with three bullet holes embellishing the coachwork” and expects the worst in people (and “they usually come through for me”). Ryker cleans up messes for the Hollywood studios. But after an explosion separates him from his fingers, legs, and head, his spirit latches on to Willie. “Either I’m going completely dippy or I’ve acquired a narrator!” she writes to Betty. But there’s no rest for the newly empowered Willie. She sets out to solve Ryker’s murder under the guise of Trixie Moran. This apparent series launcher is nothing if not literate, often densely so. Early on, Betty and Willie ponder who was the first literary figure to urinate. Her stabs at Chandler-esqe prose are at times so florid (“I’d just got under the rudder when some fired-up sheba sent her feelers up from behind and gave my cerebellum a phrenological once-over”), one suspects the second coming of S.J. Perelman’s parodic homage, “Somewhere a Roscoe…,” complete with a luger’s ka-chows. But Meegs means business. Once Ryker’s disembodied spirit enters, the pages turn at a machine gun’s pace.
Possibilities abound in this meta-noir page-turner.