Noir specialist Wiley (Monument Valley, 2017, etc.) auditions yet another hero with an apparently crippling pair of twists: Getting shot in the head has left him with disinhibition and autotopagnosia.
Three years ago, Sam Kelson, of the Chicago PD narcotics squad, went undercover to nail a teenage distributor called Bicho. All the doomy feelings Kelson and his CPD partner, Greg Toselli, shared with each other in advance turned out to be right on the money, and when the attempted bust ends, Bicho, ne Alejandro Rodriguez, has been shot dead and Kelson nearly so. Pulled back from the brink by his partner’s timely aid, Kelson hangs out his shingle as a private eye who sometimes can’t recognize his own body parts, still haunted by the question of who shot first, he or the kid. A distraction arrives in the person of Trina Felbanks, a hot-looking woman who wants Kelson to stop her brother, pharmacist Christian Felbanks, from dealing his product to lowlifes. The distraction factor here turns out to be monumental: When Kelson goes to the Lakewood Pharmacy, Raima Minhas, the druggist on duty, tells him that Felbanks isn’t in, and when he goes to Felbanks’ home, he finds him shot dead, with the police about to storm the place and arrest Kelson for his murder. It’s a setup, of course, and although Kelson’s soon out on the street, things only get worse when his client turns out to be (duh) an imposter and Raima Minhas is found fatally overdosed in Kelson’s bed. Clearly, someone’s out to get him good. Who is the nemesis the client, who keeps popping up to warn Kelson that more trouble is on the way, calls Mengele? The Chicago woods are so full of lowlifes that Kelson hardly knows where to begin looking. Working with an improbable team that includes ex-cop DeMarcus Rodman and Francisca Cabon, Bicho’s girlfriend, he wades through a growing pile of corpses to a climactic revelation savvy readers will have seen coming.
The hero, whose memorably disinhibited dialogue merely exaggerates the qualities of many another hard-boiled shamuses, deserves a stronger case.