Two new cases threaten to break an unofficial Long Island private eye who really doesn’t need to be broken.
Smooth, feral energy czar Micah Spears wants John Augustus “Gus” Murphy to take enough time from his duties working security at the Paragon Hotel to look into the death of his adopted granddaughter, Linh Trang. Spears doesn’t need to know whodunit—the Suffolk County cops already have a suspect, Asesinos gang member Rondo Salazar, dead to rights—but simply why, since Salazar won’t say a word to anyone. Gus (“I didn’t believe in God, but I believed in sin”) instinctively bristles at Spears’ request, but their mutual friend, ex-priest Bill Kilkenny, vouches for him, and Spears offers a sizable donation to set up a youth sports foundation in the name of Gus’ late son, John Jr. (Where It Hurts, 2016). So Gus takes the case and instantly gets distracted by the arrival of a dubious Paragon guest calling himself Michael Smith. Smith’s obviously in with Gus’ friend, Paragon bellman Slava Podalak, so when he sees them leaving the hotel together, Gus follows them to a meeting that turns into an execution minutes after they leave the scene. Who is Smith, what hold does he have over Slava, and what does their dark shared secret have to do with the killing of Linh Trang? Gus’ conscientious questioning of witnesses and suspects produces such meager results that you know he’s going to need help from an unexpectedly benevolent providence to solve either case.
“Knowledge of the dead changes nothing,” announces the shop-soiled hero in resignation. Maybe not, but it does add a soulful depth to his investigation while readers wait for his two cases to collide.