Freelance chief financial officer Joe Robbins gets hired by a famed musician to look into a potential scam and becomes embroiled in a murder case in Kelly’s (Hill Country Rage, 2014, etc.) latest series thriller.
It’s a simple task for 37-year-old, Austin, Texas–based financial whiz Joe Robbins to check on an investment to ensure there’s no fraud involved. Sophie Tyler, a country-music star for decades, has invested in a movie and wants to avoid the bad publicity of possibly losing the $2 million she’s already forked over. She asks Robbins, who’s unequivocally one of her fans, to verify that the independent film is legitimate but to do it as quietly as possible. He investigates under the pretense of being part of a security detail for an upcoming Austin music festival—a job he could genuinely handle, as he’s a former boxer. In due time he comes to believe that there’s deception surrounding the investment, and he even pinpoints the person who’s likely behind it. The problem? Cops find that same person bludgeoned to death. Robbins then gets a call from the probable killer, who ominously alludes to the CFO’s ex-wife, Rose, and daughters, Chandler and Callie. The killer may also be following both Robbins and Sophie—a situation that’s further complicated by the pair’s newly sexual relationship. Robbins tries to pin down the murderer’s motive and accomplices by investigating Sophie’s earlier investments; meanwhile, more bodies turn up. This detective tale centers on the protagonist’s skill set; as a result, Robbins makes sure to stay on the investigation’s financial side, but he gets crime-scene highlights from his cop pal, Lt. Rico Carrillo. Kelly’s breezy prose keeps Robbins’ white-collar investigations lively. For example, he uses humor to help clarify varieties of corporate fraud, which Robbins describes as being either like salami (with a criminal slowly taking pieces) or being whole-hog (with a criminal making one big haul). Robbins is shown to be a capable fighter, as well; in one memorable scene he confronts an intruder with whatever’s at his disposal, including kitchen plates. The final act is decidedly more suspenseful as the killer draws nearer; the most unsettling moments are recurring phone calls in which the murderer relates a disturbing amount of knowledge about Joe, his life, and his location.
A laudable showing featuring an unconventional detective who’s impossible to dislike.