It's just the end of January 2003 as I sit here with snow on the
ground and Robin Mink on the CD player, so you have to understand
that it's way too early to be making statements like the one I'm
going to make. I can't help it, though. I'm going to go ahead and
predict that, come December, Robert Ferrigno's novel SCAVENGER HUNT
is going to be on my Top Ten Best of 2003 list.
I know, I know --- it's tough to make a prediction like that so
early in the year. But SCAVENGER HUNT is the book that Ferrigno's
legion of followers has been waiting for. It is not merely a great
Ferrigno book or even a great mystery. It is a great novel, period.
It has all of the elements: tight plotting, memorable prose and
characters that leap off of the page and into your world. It's a
book that you swim in and maybe drown in, as opposed to wade
through. Readable? Hah! Try to stop!
SCAVENGER HUNT brings intrepid SLAP reporter Jimmy Gage back for
another go-round. SCAVENGER HUNT is not a sequel to FLINCH, where
we first met Gage; no, SCAVENGER HUNT stands quite well on its own.
Ferrigno fleshes Gage out and goes deeper into his character,
making him more three-dimensional and ultimately more likable. This
time around, Gage is on a Hollywood party scavenger hunt when he
encounters Garrett Walsh, a former movie director
flavor-of-the-month whose career abruptly came to an end when he
was arrested for the rape and murder of an underage girl. Walsh
pled guilty and, under the terms of a plea bargain, spent seven
years in prison. Newly released, Walsh feels that Gage is just the
ticket to help him clear his name. He plans to refurbish his
reputation through Fall Guy, a movie script he is working on and
that he swears will tell the story of how he was set up. Just a
couple of weeks after they meet, however, Gage finds Walsh dead in
a fishpond, apparently having drowned while intoxicated. Gage's
reporting instincts immediately kick in --- Walsh's story of being
set up has the ring of truth to it and his accidental death, while
convenient with his unfortunate drug use, is just a bit too
convenient. What Gage doesn't know, however, is that his
investigation is attracting the notice of the wrong people and
putting him squarely in the crosshairs of danger.
Ferrigno does a simply incredible job of misdirection here, yet he
plays fair every step of the way. I thought I had SCAVENGER HUNT
figured out a number of times and was totally wrong more than once.
Ferrigno also does an incredible job of pacing, dropping major and
minor bombs throughout SCAVENGER HUNT from the beginning to the
end. All of the characters, from the one-page walk-ons to the major
players, are interesting and real. And wait until you encounter
Sugar. Just wait. This is an unforgettable book, filled with
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011