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Richard Helms
Author
Brittle Karma
Derringer Award winner and Shamus Award finalist San Francisco private investigator Eamon Gold (GRASS SANDAL; CORDITE WINE) returns in a thrilling new adventure. Convicted armored car robber Abner Carlisle approaches Gold after being paroled from prison after a quarter century. He's searching for Eddie Rice, the wheelman for the robbery thirty years earlier. Rice disappeared after the robbery with the entire take and Carlisle's daughter Lydia. Gold suspects that Carlisle plans to kill Rice, and declines to take the case. When Carlisle is found murdered in his hotel room, Gold discovers that the insurance company will pay ten percent of any recovered money from the heist, and he decides to take the case on spec. His investigation leads to encounters with crooked cops, a self-made millionaire, a freakishly endowed porn star, aging gangsters, avaricious gold diggers, a Polynesian tough guy, and the distinct possibility that a thirty year old case might still prove deadly.
Reviews
Helms’s first Eamon Gold mystery since 2005’s Cordite Wine features more suspects than motives. When Abner Carlisle, a former member of a gang of armored car robbers, enlists private detective Eamon to locate Eddie Rice, the only gang member who got away—along with the $20 million they stole and Abner’s daughter, Lydia—Eamon wants nothing to do with it. He knows his business, and not every job is worth the trouble. But when Abner is murdered, Eamon impulsively decides to investigate. He finds out the armored car’s insurance company offers a 10% reward for any recovered funds and sees it as the perfect way to guarantee an early retirement.

Eamon rounds up a big list of people who might have been involved in Abner’s death and Eddie and Lydia’s disappearance, but most lack motive and opportunity, not to mention any contact with any of the three in at least two decades. Despite numerous dead ends, the interviews with these characters provide revelations that will keep readers turning the pages. Eamon’s dry, quick wit, evident intelligence, and ability to spin an amusing tale make him an appealing protagonist. His thinly sketched situation with his occasional lover, Heidi, gives readers a small reprieve from the tedious research, though his willingness to discuss his case with her belies his title of “private” investigator. His ambiguous morals make it hard to believe he’d turn in $20 million to get $2 million.

Helms oversimplifies the process of evidence-gathering. Eamon, recovering from a leg injury, relies heavily on searches in the online CyberShamus database to follow up on every lead. Red herrings proliferate throughout the plot. Readers who are new to the series might find it hard to connect to Eamon, who’s even more reserved than the stereotypical PI. Despite that, it’s still easy to root for him. The plot takes the scenic route to a surprising destination, and the premise is strong enough to keep readers hooked.

Takeaway: This page-turning mystery with a surprise ending provides a good starting point for fans of detective series.

Great for fans of James Ellroy, Ross Macdonald

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B

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