After a hiatus for a pair of international thrillers, Hoyt (Old Soldiers Sometimes Lie, 2002, etc.) returns to p.i.’s John Denson and Willie Prettybird, whistling them down from their Whorehouse Meadow hideaways to get to the bottom of murder and weather most foul.
The case begins with a sudden storm of coho salmon—hundreds of fish plummeting from the sky above the Columbia River and going “Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum! Whack-Whack-Whack-Whack!” against the sides of Denson’s ancient Volkswagen. It’s the unsettling aftermath of a twister, says Jerry Toogood, the radio weatherman/sage of Portland, Oregon. When the fishy downpour finally relents, Denson confronts more unsettling developments. Near a Ford Explorer pulled off to the side of the road is a fatally wounded young woman, blood gushing from her mouth: “Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle ther. Gurgle, gurgle, ister. Gurgle, gurgle, ill gurgle,” which Denson interprets as “Say goodbye to my father and sister.” The dying girl is Sharon Toogood, the daughter of that same meteorologist, who hires Denson and Prettybird to find her killer. Skeptical by nature, Denson has always resisted shaman Willie’s metaphysical approach to the gumshoe’s craft, but not this time. Stumped, he allows his partner to chemically induce an out-of-body flight as he encounters, among other imponderables, his ladylove in the shape of an owl (“Voo-hoo-hoo! Voo-hoo-hoo-hoo!”), but then continues clueless until at length the murderer conveniently confesses.
Annoyingly digressive and essentially plotless: a clink-clink-clink-clinker.