A private eye travels to Las Vegas to find his missing friend and winds up investigating a murder in Burgess’ debut thriller, the first in a proposed series.
Frank Fitzpatrick leaves the beaches of Florida for the glitz of Vegas when Candy Vogel, wife of Arthur, a mathematician and Fitz’s former co-worker, tells the PI that her husband vanished three days ago. It doesn’t take long for Fitz to see something’s wrong: Arthur was uncharacteristically fascinated by an eccentric artist calling himself Zsa Zsa, whose paintings seem to Fitz a jumbled mess; and Arthur recently had a heated argument with Eliot Waxwell, an affluent man who’s been financing Zsa Zsa. Fitz doesn’t get much support from the local PD—he’s responsible for a few corrupt Vegas cops being sent away—but he’ll need all the help he can get, as his missing persons case turns into a murder investigation and is further complicated by the presence of Wang, a notable Chinese shipping mogul, as well as the FBI. Despite its contemporary setting, Burgess’ novel exhibits some of the traditional elements of a classic detective story: Fitz loves classic Hollywood films, still refers to comics as “the funnies,” and equates Candy with Marilyn Monroe and Maxine (Fitz’s erstwhile lover) with Jayne Mansfield. The narrative itself likewise recalls a pulpy dime novel: It dives immediately into the mystery and uses wordplay instead of cursing; e.g., more than one character tells Fitz to do something to himself that’s “anatomically impossible.” But the modern touches played against the conventional noir backdrop are what really set the book apart: Fitz uses a smartphone app to track someone and removes his cellphone’s battery to avoid anyone doing the same to him. And the disparities between Fitz and a classic sleuth give the protagonist much-needed distinction: He abhors cigarette smoke, doesn’t drink because he doesn’t like the taste of alcohol and prefers his Converse sneakers to “fancy shoes” that pinch his toes. The mystery isn’t hard to figure out, but there are copious suspects and red herrings, and readers will gladly join the charming PI as he diligently sifts through every one of them.
Frank Fitzpatrick will lead this mystery series with ease, boasting the deductive skills of Philip Marlowe and the style of James Bond in high tops.