In Leininger’s sluggish fourth novel featuring former Nevada IRS agent turned PI Mortimer Angel (after 2018’s Gumshoe on the Loose), the skull of Mort’s missing former boss, Ronald Soranden, turns up in the vandalized Mustang of his assistant, Lucy Landry. The discovery leads to an FBI inquiry and increased scrutiny for Mort, amid a case involving an accountant who embezzled money in an attempt to pay back unpaid taxes, only to fall prey to the blackmail plot of an unscrupulous IRS agent. With Lucy’s help, Mort’s ensuing investigation to recover the missing money connects to other seemingly unrelated cases occupying their agency. Mort never misses the opportunity to ramble about generational differences as well as the government-sanctioned criminals working in the IRS. The relationship between Mort and Lucy functions as wish fulfillment, robbing her of agency as well as necessity to the story. The convoluted buildup, meanwhile, supersedes the effort to construct a dramatically satisfying mystery. Those who prefer an antiquated take on the hard-boiled genre will best appreciate this one. (Aug.)
Praise for the Gumshoe series:
“Mortimer Angel is my new favorite private eye.”John Lescroart, New York Times best-selling author
“The Mort Angel books are instant PI classics–smart, slick, charming, and highly recommended.”Lee Child, New York Times best-selling author
“Once this novel is picked up, the reader will be reluctant to put it down…bring on the next adventure, Mr. Leininger. We’ll be waiting!”New York Journal of Books
“A high-spirited pipe dream of nonstop wisecracks, female pulchritude, and physical combat.”Kirkus Reviews
“So delightful are [Mort and Lucy's] scenes together that we’re sorry the two have to get to work. A high-speed, easy-reading narrative.”Booklist
A fourth round of wisecracks, fisticuffs, come-ons, and the occasional homicide for Reno private eye Mort—only his mother called him Mortimer, and that was a mistake—Angel.
Clary Investigations, owned and operated by tough cookie Maude "Ma" Clary, has two cases on its current docket. Karen Galbraith wants the agency to find her runaway daughter, Megan, and CPA Evelyn Joss wants to know what Michael Volker, her junior partner, did with the $13,600 he withdrew from the company's account. Ma and Lucy Landry, the ex-waitress who caught Mort's eye and more in his last outing (Gumshoe on the Loose, 2018, etc.), find Megan Galbraith in record time. But the other case is trickier even though Volker hasn't taken the trouble to run away; he just stammers and orders Mort out of his house when he's asked about the missing funds. Evelyn Joss isn't inclined to press too hard, but once Volker knows she's onto him, she knows it won't be long before the cops get involved and raise the stakes. That's a pity, because Mort has already been dumped into what looks at first like a nonpaying case when he finds the skull of Ronald Soranden, the vanished head of the Northern Nevada IRS, in Lucy's convertible. Fear not: Since Mort already has a nationwide reputation as a discoverer of high-profile corpses, it's not long before IRS Commissioner William V. Munson dangles a fat consultancy fee before him if he can identify Soranden's killer. Stopping by to pick up Lucy in Munson's martini-fueled government jet (a nice touch for all concerned), Mort goes on the hunt, looking not so much to finger the perp, who turns out to be pretty unsurprising, but to find out why Soranden was worth killing, a question that turns out to be well worth asking.
Fans of Travis McGee hungry for red-meat private-eye adventure will tune out the mystery and focus on the hero's effortlessly self-confident sex appeal, superhuman physical strength, and nice way with dialogue.
Private-investigator-in-training Mort Angel has the dubious reputation as a locator of famous missing people—he's been known to find some of their body parts when they're dead. After meeting with Maude "Ma" Clary, head of Clary Investigations, he and his lover/assistant Lucy Landry find someone ripped the roof of Lucy's Mustang convertible. That someone also dropped a human skull into the driver's seat. Because it's the skull of Ronald Soranden, the missing chief IRS agent in northern Nevada, Clary Investigations' latest case involves the police, the FBI, and, of course, the IRS. Why would such a weird murder case link to the team's latest embezzlement investigation? It must be Mort's knack for involvement in cases involving body parts and missing people. The latest Gumshoe novel is darkly humorous and unconventional, with a PI aware of the absurdity of his career. VERDICT Gumshoe, the first in the series, was a Shamus nominee, and the author continues to develop Mort's character and his snappy repartee. Readers who loved Robert B. Parker's Spenser or Matt Goldman's Nils Shapiro will appreciate the humor and investigative work in this outstanding example of the PI novel.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN