A second case for forensic accountant Peter Strand (The Blue Dragon, 2015) ushers him into a San Francisco nonprofit to investigate rumored problems that get a lot bigger and more concrete shortly after his arrival.
Peter’s biggest client, wealthy, unseen property owner Mr. Lehr, has a finger in so many pies that some of them are inevitably half-baked. Convinced that there’s trouble brewing at the Fog City Arts Center, which the Black Tortoise Foundation runs for the city’s Port Commission, he bids Peter make the rounds. At the reception in which Peter meets most of the major players—sales and marketing director Craig Anglim, head of operations Marguerite Woodson, client liaison Vanessa Medder—Fog City accountant Emelio Salazar introduces Peter to each of them with a different cover story, an amusing touch that goes nowhere. About the only thing Peter learns, in fact, is that everyone in sight hates newly appointed executive director Madeline Creighton, whose highhanded manner is instantly off-putting. True to form, she puts off her scheduled meeting with Peter, and when he comes in the next morning, he finds a body in the tortoise tank outside the building that, amazingly, isn’t Madeline’s. David, the dead IT guy, isn’t even important enough to have a last name, and the intrigue surrounding his death turns out to be strictly routine as well.
A disappointingly perfunctory novella whose main revelation is that when the author of the hard-nosed Deets Shanahan stories (Killing Frost, 2015, etc.) takes off the edge, he takes off quite a bit more along with it.