A newly retired NYPD cop moves to the California desert and experiences culture shock—with hippies and UFO sightings that may be driving him crazy—in this mystery.
While he’s off duty, Lt. Paul Santo’s meal is interrupted by protesters demanding restaurant diners stand in objection to racist police. Paul’s clash with one demonstrator gets him in trouble, but rather than take a one-day suspension, he opts for retirement, already fed up with a public that designates cops as the bad guys. He soon has the chance to reconnect with his 21-year-old daughter, Tracy, who’s been estranged since Paul’s alcoholic, drug-abusing wife, Marcy, left him years ago. Tracy wants to start a new life on the West Coast. Paul joins her, and while Tracy stays with her friend Heidi, he seeks adventure at the Joshua Tree National Park. There he meets Kate at the Joshua Tree Inn’s front desk and later encounters a band of hippies who regularly dabble in drugs and UFO gazing. One night, Paul himself spots an unexplained spacecraft on the road, precipitating a vehicular accident. He’s certain someone in the group slipped him a Mickey (like, say, LSD); otherwise, there’s a very good chance he’s losing his mind. Though Schindler’s (The Last Sewer Ball, 2013, etc.) offbeat novel ultimately delves into the mystery of Paul’s mental state, it builds on a sturdy foundation of lonely cop–turned–family man. Paul’s torn between giving Tracy space and ingratiating himself into her life; Tracy wants to tell her father the true nature of her relationship with Heidi and her surprise career plans. It’s a worthy precursor to the latter half, which is effectively blanketed in ambiguity. Even Kate, for example, is suspect (maybe she drugged Paul’s tea), and many things could be the reason he sees the craft and other peculiarities, from stress to the desert heat. The prose, meanwhile, spices up the narrative without subverting Paul’s predicament: “As he coffee’ed up, his brain was spinning, churning, digging for solutions.”
A sublimely unusual tale of a man’s dementia or, perhaps, his awakening.