A Chicago cop retired to Fort Myers Beach lands a consulting contract with a neighboring police force that’s a pipe dream from the first puff to the last.
People come to Naples, Florida, to spend their bundles before they die. But Mayor Charles Beaumont and Police Chief Wade Hansen think someone may have sped up the process for Eileen Stephenson, 78, a former Olympic swimmer found dead in her pool, and meatpacking heir Lester Gandolf, 72, who fell down the stairs in his retirement home. Fearing that they’re out past their depth—Naples isn’t a place you go to get experience in working homicides—they turn to Jack Starkey, a retired detective who has the distinction of serving as the model for Detective Lt. Jack Stoney, the homicide cop who stars in Chicago Tribune reporter Bill Stevens’ bestselling novels. Jack’s other distinctions are less clear. He’s a fast man with a wisecrack; he has an eye for beautiful women and a bed for one of them, realtor Marisa Fernandez de Lopez; he mourns his distant relationship with his daughter, Jenny, a corporate attorney who didn’t invite him to her wedding; and, on the evidence of this maiden voyage, he’s absolutely clueless as a detective. Deciding to go undercover as Frank Chance, the imaginary nephew of real-life Naples socialite Lady Ashley Howe, he scores much higher as an appreciative consumer of his ultraluxe new lifestyle than as a sleuth. The suspect he fixes on from the beginning turns out not only to be innocent, but to share Jack’s interest in the case. And the who-cares denouement, when it finally arrives, manages to be both perfunctory and overlong.
Waggish Jack is good company, and he’s appealingly aware of how deeply unoriginal a vehicle Wells (Ride Away Home, 2014) has given him. Maybe next year.