In this mystery novel, Cody Thomas, private eye, tries to find the real murderer and clear his accused wife, with not a moment to lose.
Pecora, a first-time mystery writer, contrives an effective noir scene to open his story of death and deception. Cody, ex-cop and now private detective, has bugged an adjoining room in a sleazy hotel and is listening in the dark, in the small hours. The sounds—giggling, bed creaking, passionate moaning—indicate an assignation. Then he hears drunken snoring and gets just a glimpse of a young woman walking away down the corridor. No big deal, until the creep, Samuel Hollowell, is found dead the next morning, tied naked to the bed. Cody turns the tape over to his old partner, Lt. Andy Perone, whom he knows to be honest and who happens to be heading up the investigation. The hunt is on—and, it seems, soon over: Cody’s wife, Joanna, confesses to him that she was the mystery woman at the hotel. Now, as the bodies pile up—someone is knocking off those who might spell trouble—Cody has to solve the case to clear his stir-crazy wife amid well-founded marital insecurity. The well-handled tension serves as the narrative’s strongest dynamic, even though Joanna’s reason for being in the hotel room seems rather forced. When Cody and his lawyer manage to get Joanna released on bond, there’s another killing, and Joanna gets hauled back in. Perhaps Joanna is innocent after all, but then who’s the real killer? Pecora admirably weaves the twisty plot that’s as much about Cody’s overwhelming doubt—of his wife’s fidelity, of a police department that he knows is corruptible—as it is about simply solving the murders. Description and dialogue are often overwrought or stiff, though, but the conclusion is well-handled.
Pecora is no Raymond Chandler and Cody Thomas is no Philip Marlowe, but this debut detective novel bodes well for Pecora’s future.