Michael Wiley’s first novel, The Last Striptease, was nominated for a Shamus Award and hailed as “riveting” (The Chicago Tribune), “delightful” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “hard-boiled fiction with tenderness and compassion” (New York Newsday). Now he offers another exciting, fast-paced page-turner with The Bad Kitty Lounge.
Greg Samuelson, an unassuming bookkeeper, has hired Joe Kozmarski to dig up dirt on his wife and her lover Eric Stone. But now Samuelson has taken matters into his own hands. It looks like he's torched Stone’s Mercedes, killed his boss, and then shot himself, all in the space of an hour.
The police think they know how to put together this ugly puzzle. But as Kozmarski discovers, nothing’s ever simple. Eric Stone wants to hire Kozmarski to clear Samuelson. Samuelson’s dead boss, known as the Virginity Nun, has a saintly reputation but a red-hot past. And a gang led by an aging 1960s radical shows up in Kozmarski’s office with a backpack full of payoff money, warning him to turn a blind eye to murder.
At the same time, Kozmarski is working things out with his ex-wife, Corrine, his new partner, Lucinda Juarez, and his live-in nephew, Jason. If the bad guys don't do Kozmarski in, his family might.
About the Author
Michael Wiley is a winner of the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition and was nominated for a Shamus Award for his first novel, The Last Striptease. He lives with his family in northeast Florida, where he is hard at work on another Joe Kozmarski mystery.
Read an Excerpt
I SAT IN TOMMY Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant facing a window onto North LaSalle Street and watched a four-story condo complex where Eric Stone was screwing another man’s wife. Not the kind of work I look for, but it always seems to . nd me. I kept my eyes on my client’s condo and ate egg foo yong.
Behind me in the kitchen, Mr. Cheng cooked something that sizzled in the wok. He wore an apron and a white baseball cap. My Pentax, its telephoto screwed into focus, rested on the counter in case Eric Stone showed his face outside.
I squinted into the glare. The little birch trees that the city had dumped into sidewalk planters .ared October yellow. The condo complex was stucco and had the kind of Spanish arches and wide balconies that belonged far from Chicago in a place where the sea was always clear and the breeze blew as warm as a woman’s breath.
A man walked onto the balcony in front of the condo.
I dropped my chopsticks, readjusted the lens on the pentax, and snapped a photo. The man had a caterpillar of a beard under his bottom lip. The rest of his head was shaved. He looked somewhere in his early .fties but his arms and body were thick—all muscle. He .exed the arms over his head. He wore white shorts and a white T-shirt on a forty-degree autumn day. He looked like a pirate in tennis whites.
A woman joined him on the balcony.
Amy Samuelson. My client Greg Samuelson’s wife.
She was dressed in khakis and a sweater, her blond hair in a ponytail. She wrapped her arms around Eric Stone from behind.
Mr. Cheng came from the kitchen and stood next to me. “Every day the same thing,” he said, laughing. “She never gets enough of him.”
She slid her hands down the man’s stomach. One hand disappeared into the front of his shorts. Stone looked proud of himself.
Mr. Cheng said, “Some people’ve got no decency,” and I snapped more photos. “What do you do?” he asked. “Blackmail them?”
I pulled out my wallet, let him read my detective’s license.
“Joe Kozmarski?” he said.
“I’m helping her husband get a divorce.”
He laughed. “You blackmail them.”
Amy Samuelson and the man went back into the condo, closing the door behind them.
I ate more egg foo yong. The bean sprouts were fresh, the shrimp as big as walnuts. Mr. Cheng stood and watched the balcony as if he expected them to come back out naked and screw in the open air.
Another man walked across a parking lot next to the condos. He was thin, wearing blue jeans, an oxford shirt, and a navy blue jacket, no tie. He carried a two-gallon gas can. He looked in no hurry. He crossed to a yellow Mercedes convertible that was parked facing the street.
I knew the car. Eric Stone drove it when he wasn’t . exing his muscles on the Samuelsons’ balcony in his tennis shorts.
The man set the gas can on the hood of the Mercedes and undid the cap. He screwed a spout onto the can. He poured gasoline over the car’s hood, over the convertible roof, onto the trunk.
Mr. Cheng said, “What the hell—”
The man shook gasoline onto the car doors. He stooped by the tires and poured gas over them. He took his time.
“Take—pictures,” Mr. Cheng sputtered. I left my camera on the counter.
The man splashed the rest of the gasoline under the Mercedes, then stepped back to appraise his work.
He touched the fabric convertible roof with a lighter and leaped away. The car burst into .ames. Thick black smoke .ngered into the air. The convertible top .ared and fell into the interior.
The man with the gas can watched the .re, then pulled a cell phone from his pocket, dialed, and talked into it. When he hung up, he walked slowly away. The empty gas can dangled in his .ngers. The car made a hollow popping sound and the windshield fell into the front seat.
Mr. Cheng glared. “Why don’t you take pictures?”
I looked him up and down. “That was the husband—My my client.”
Mr. Cheng stared at me with blank eyes and nodded, then returned to the kitchen and called 911. He told the operator that a car was burning and gave the street address. When he hung up, he came back and sat on the stool next to mine. “You like the egg foo yong?” he asked.
“Best egg foo yong I ever ate,” I said.
“Thank you,” he said. “It’s my mother’s recipe. It gives you long life.”
We sat together and watched the Mercedes burn. Giant .ames angled out of the interior. The car roared like an open furnace. Heavy black smoke, dense as dirt, clouded above it. The smell of burning rubber and something worse—the leather interior, something that once was living—made its way into the restaurant. By the time we heard sirens, the . re had blackened the car’s exterior, and whatever was feeding it from inside was gone. The .ames shortened. Then the gas tank exploded and the .re roared again.
I pushed away the egg foo yong. Long life it would give me, said Mr. Cheng. I’d lost my appetite.
Excerpted from The Bad Kitty Lounge by Michael Wiley.
Copyright © 2010 by Michael Wiley.
Published in March 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Chicago Greg Samuelson goes ballistic when he learns his wife Amy is having an affair with Eric Stone. Fuming, he burns Stone's car. Soon afterward, at the Holy Trinity Church someone shoots Greg in the face and kills his boss, Sister Judy Terrano, the Virginity Nun; under her tattoo of a cat was written with a marker "Bad Kitty". Greg, who previously hired private investigator Joe Kozmarski to catch his wife in the act, rehires the sleuth to make inquiries into who shot him. As Joe digs and finds more corpses, long time civil rights activist William DuBuclet demands he drops the case or else. Stone tries to hire Joe to conduct surveillance on DuBuclet as the case ties back to the 1960s Bad Kitty Lounge where teens met to hear music, smoke weed and use dope, and have sex. This a superb Chicago Noir (see The Last Striptease) as Joe deals with a client he dropped after the BMW arson incident at a time he considers leaving the Windy City with his two dependents, his mom and his young cousin. Joe tells the tale from the opening inferno over egg fu young until the final wrap up though at times his escapades seem over the top of the Sears Tower. The audience will enjoy this fabulous investigative thriller as the spins and twists keep Joe and the reader off kilter throughout. Harriet Klausner
Excellent book. It is well written and a compelling read. The characters are deep and believable. This book is much better than your average criime mystery.