In this debut thriller, a Canadian man purchases a Costa Rican beachside bar, but cops are more interested in him as a suspect in the previous owner’s murder.
A hung over Ben Cooper has no idea why he awakens in a Tamarindo jail. He doesn’t remember anything from last night, much less buying a bar—or killing its owner/seller, Antonio Guiterrez. Nevertheless, authorities arrest him for the murder, and Ben’s attorney pal back in Toronto, Victoria Holmes, comes to his rescue. His other friend, Miguel Valares, is in Costa Rica with Ben, both taking advantage of the latter’s defunct wedding and nonrefundable honeymoon tickets and hotel accommodations. Victoria gets Ben out of prison, but now he has a bar to run, especially because a stop payment isn’t feasible. (He drunkenly changed the password and security question to his and ex-fiancee Tara Whitmore’s joint bank account and, of course, forgot them.) Since the bar’s in debt, new partners Victoria and Miguel help financially and by drumming up business; Victoria, for one, shows off her DJ skills. The murder, however, takes precedence thanks to Detective Vasquez, who’s convinced that Ben’s guilty, and an anonymous note implying Ben will be the next victim. The three Canadians, along with Ana, Antonio’s niece, who believes in Ben’s innocence, set out to thwart a murderer. The author keeps his tale popping with ample subplots, tossing a blackmailer and an apparent vandal targeting Ben and Miguel’s rental car into the mix. Some of these turn out to be red herrings, but it’s unmistakable that Ben, and possibly others, is in jeopardy, particularly once the killer lets his (or her) presence be known. There’s a good deal of humor, a highlight being Miguel’s Uncle Enrico, who pays for a “pretend-ownership” of the bar and believes solving a murder is part of said deal. Contrarily, Ben’s recurrent, daily endeavors to guess his password are ultimately redundant. He’s no longer attempting to cancel payment—he and his partners/friends are completely invested in the bar— while his reasoning that “it would be nice to have access to his bank account again” is too blasé to bear much weight for readers.
Amateur gumshoes bolstered by a tropical setting and the added pressure of trying to sustain a business.