Bandral’s debut crime novel draws on classic detective-novel tropes as a team from the Walmtop Police Department encounters a puzzling murder.
Police detectives Mandy, James Vince, and Robert Carter join forces with their captain, David Brown, on a case that seems like a suicide. However, they soon determine that someone visited millionaire casino owner Adam Lancer the night he died; somebody also tampered with his body, and they discover pig’s blood in his bathtub, as well. The team embarks on an investigation that’s far from simple, interviewing servants, tracking cellphones, and dodging bullets—although Mandy doesn’t get away entirely without a scratch. Soon, the detectives uncover a conspiracy that leads them to a fun-filled night at the Royal Plaza Casino. But then their primary suspect gets hit by a truck, and a related cold-case file about two missing girls turns up. The characters on the case are fresh and realistic; Mandy is not above having a milkshake for breakfast and burned pizza for dinner, Robert’s a family man, and James likes fast cars. The story also endearingly reveals that crime isn’t all paperwork and dead bodies, as there’s always time for a little gambling. Fans of The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and, of course, Casino Royale will find this story’s undertones familiar. However, Bandral transitions between times and locations without warning; at one point, the narrative launches into a several-chapter flashback from the previous year. There are also occasionally odd word choices, as when food is “laid” in bowls, and sometimes characters speak unnaturally, as when Mandy’s captain calls her to a crime scene with a Batman-like command: “Morning, Mandy. There is an emergency. You need to come to the office right now.” Nonetheless, readers who enjoy good, old-fashioned detecting may overlook these faults.
An unevenly written detective story that still effectively pays homage to its hard-boiled predecessors.