And now for something completely flip, as ironic spymaster Littell (Young Philby, 2012, etc.) turns to the vicissitudes of domestic crime.
Ornella Neppi isn’t really a bail bondsman. She’s a puppeteer who’s minding the store while her uncle recovers from ulcer surgery. But she knows he’s not going to be pleased that after she accepted the deed to a $375,000 condo in East of Eden Gardens as surety for accused cocaine seller Emilio Gava’s $125,000 bail, Gava skipped Las Cruces and the deed turned out to be a forgery. Now she wants Lemuel Gunn to hunt Gava down. Gunn is a former New Jersey homicide detective who was tossed out of the CIA for making trouble in Afghanistan, where they already had enough of it, settled in New Mexico and got a PI license. He can’t resist his client’s legs or the chances she provides for nonstop banter (“The sight of her vertebrae left me short of breath”). And Gava seems to have so little sense of self-preservation that he’s phoned the cops in advance to warn them when and where he’ll be selling coke. Why he’d dime himself out is the most pleasing puzzle here, and once Gunn and Ornella figure it out, nothing that follows quite measures up to it. But a good time is guaranteed for all—except maybe for the Baldinis and the Ruggeris, feuding crime families who seem determined to wipe each other out.
Brainy when it needs to be, arch at every conceivable opportunity and good-natured withal. It’s a pleasure to see Littell, who’s always seemed kind of tightly wound, relax a bit and invite readers along for the ride.