A lawyer tries to steer a billionaire client’s cruise line free of bad publicity by finding a serial killer before he continues making female passengers disappear in this debut thriller.
Raam Commoner, a Los Angeles attorney who has just returned from a two-year tour in Afghanistan, is almost immediately picked up by Viktor Viken’s goons. Viktor’s business empire, including Camelot Cruise Lines, has solidified counsel Raam’s position at his firm, despite partners disapproving of his (possibly dubious) manner of maintaining ties with the thuggish businessman. But Camelot has a problem: a man calling himself Mr. Dinia sends a video in which he, with his face and voice disguised, boasts of the people he’s murdered, namely nine on Viktor’s ships—and a forthcoming 10th. Viktor wants Raam to track down the killer, afraid the notoriety surrounding any police scrutiny would ruin his business. Retaining the secret becomes hard enough for Raam, with the family of one of the missing passengers hiring private investigator Kayman Karl, and an anonymous message demanding money to keep mum about the serial killer. But Dinia gleefully toys with the lawyer, sending emails in which the killer takes credit for a few murders (individuals whom Raam knows) and lodging the occasional threat. Raam’s romance with Kayman only complicates matters, because her concurrent investigation likewise puts her in danger. The story subverts a traditional mystery with absorbing tangents, including an alleged victim Dinia names in his video but who doesn’t seem to have been a passenger, and Tony Bartholomew, a nosy, antagonistic attorney at Raam’s firm. Though some are red herrings, Bach still manages to link them somehow to the main plot. Raam’s not initially likable, with his wake of girlfriends and exes collectively and flippantly known as “Commoner College.” His attraction to Kayman, however, gradually turns into something substantial and maybe even sentimental, while the savvy, physically capable private eye more than holds her own. Most readers will likely work out the killer’s identity before the protagonist, so that the final act, which entails the explanation of Dinia’s cryptic clues, comes across as an overly complex, roundabout way of unmasking a murderer.
A dandy tale whose deviations prove just as much fun, if not more so, than the murder mystery itself.