A detective and a computer genius/consultant look into the apparent murder of a businessman in Meisel’s murder-mystery debut.
If Detective Nikki Sharp pulls a case in which perusing computer files could prove beneficial, she’s helped by independently wealthy technology guru Archie Teal. That arrangement happens often, including in the case of Edward Hoskins of Beverly Hills, shot dead in the abdomen. With assistance from Archie’s AI, Erasmus, the investigative duo locks onto a suspect almost immediately: George Michalopoulos, whose interactive-books company—suspiciously similar to Hoskins’ own—led to Hoskins’ bankruptcy. Michalopoulos may have killed Hoskins to cover up illicit activities, but with other events in the victim’s life, such as a bitter ongoing divorce, any number of people could be guilty of murder. The author’s short novel is a mystery saturated with potential killers. With little evidence at the scene, Nikki and Archie check alibis of everyone, from divorce lawyers to the CFO of Hoskins’ defunct company. The investigation occasionally hits a wall, and the detective/consultant pair often re-examine what they’ve learned. Michalopoulos, meanwhile, may be complicit in other crimes—e.g., credit-card fraud—that have nothing to do with the murder, even if Nikki and Archie continue to scrutinize them after handing their info over to the FBI. But Meisel knows how to keep the story moving: the investigators may be on the right track when, in Archie’s house, a ski-masked figure attacks them both, and then someone tries to hack Erasmus. On top of that, a subplot involving romance between Nikki and Archie is surprisingly engaging. Archie, who initiates the first date, comes across as charming not because he wants to improve his social skills but in how he does it—asking Erasmus to teach him. He may too often rely on his AI for the murder case, but when he needs Erasmus’ help with dating, it’s admirable, since it’s evident that the socially awkward man is jumping far outside his comfort zone. Meisel waits until the very end to reveal the murderer, but it’s a conclusion that satisfies.
Readers will delight in watching the computer nerd get the girl—and maybe catch a killer as well.