In Declan Hughes' fifth novel featuring Dublin private investigator Ed Loy, Hughes:
- Sets major parts of the story in Los Angeles, complete with breathtaking and melancholy scenery.
- Gets inside the head of a serial killer.
- Sends great torrents of yearningly romantic prose tumbling onto the page.
- Offers up any number of wisecracks and world-weary observations.
Hughes pays subtle, effective tribute to the old-time mystery tradition of lining up suspects one by one, but it's mystery of a deeper kind that underlies the story:
"You can't extrapolate from someone's childhood and background that he would step over the edge and act in this particular way," Loy tells us. "That's what I find so problematic about criminal profiling: it's magical thinking, when you boil it down, a kind of elaborate system of guesswork and hunch-playing. Nothing wrong with that, I operate pretty much the same way. Every detective does. ... We just don't dress it up the way the criminal profile boys do, calling it behavioral science and making claims for its near infallibility."That's a nicely contemporary expression of the traditional hard-boiled P.I. world view. More to the point, it's just one example of the book's touching philosophical humility. Nothing human is ever certain or definite in Ed Loy's world or the killer's.
The tentative reconciliations at novel's end are all the more affecting for that fragility. And that is one hell of an update of the hard-boiled P.I.'s romantic side.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010