Private eye John March follows the money again in a worthy sequel to his impressive debut (Shamus-winner Black Maps, 2003).
Unlike the Hammett-Chandler-Ross-McDonald prototype, March is rich, bulwarked by a trust fund from the family banking business. Still, he is (in Chandler's famous phrase) “neither tarnished nor afraid,” though prone to those heavy bouts of Weltschmerz endemic to fictional p.i.s. March’s mean street is Wall Street, and he walks it like a beat cop, which explains why Nina Sachs dials his number when her financial analyst ex-husband, Gregory Danes, goes missing. Danes, clever, telegenic, once the poster boy for business glitz and glam, has fallen on hard times. His firm is unhappy with him, and, rumor has it, so is the SEC: “insider trading” is the unnerving term being bruited about. Few, however, are as anxious as Nina, since, for her, bread and butter is the issue: she needs him around to keep signing alimony checks. March goes to work, soon discovering he’s not the only gumshoe tracking Danes. But gumshoes come in a variety of flavors, and these, March learns when certain photographs make it clear that people close to him are under threat, are the noxious, bottom-feeding kind. So he’s being warned off, but why? Has Danes got himself into something so potentially explosive that big-time movers and shakers are running scared? Is Danes only missing, or has the ante been upped lethally? Well, ex-cop March can play rough, too—fast as the next man with the fist to the gut, or the shoe to the groin. But it’s the good March brain that finally cracks the case, and the vulnerable March heart that makes the solution bittersweet.
Spiegelman’s dialogue does at times descend to talkiness, slowing the pace accordingly, but his is a serious talent that rewards interest now with better around the corner.