An amiable private eye may be getting too close to his prime suspect.
The unexpected arrival of police and a skittish quarry turn a routine assignment into a messy arrest for part-time investigator Jason Wilder, who’d rather be playing a gig with his guitar than playing detective anyway. Statuesque Russian-born beauty Katerina Sterling has hired Jason’s firm to find her missing husband Anthony. When Jason surprises his shlumpy prey, Anthony pulls a gun, and before he can say “licensed p.i.,” Jason finds himself in handcuffs. Fortunately, he has allies in the Midnight Detective Agency, River City’s best, run by former police detective Victoria Wilder, Jason’s imperious mother. Other relatives on the payroll ensure that Jason’s life doesn’t suffer from a lack of meddling, though Victoria’s style is more tough love than overprotection. When Anthony is found murdered, it falls to Jason to investigate. He first suspects the Russian “businessmen” working with the Sterlings. But Patriarch Malcolm Sterling implicates his black sheep daughter Janice and has little use for Katerina. Checking them out, Jason falls a bit for both Janice and her adorable daughter Angelique and starts to accept Janice’s version of Sterling family dynamics. Is he on the right track or being played for a chump? Mother knows best.
The tart narrative, winner of St. Martin’s 2002 Best First Private Eye Mystery contest, has an appealing retro feel and a clever solution.