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Following JANUARY COLD KILL, Rob Leininger introduces unwitting private investigator Mort Angel, who looks down the road to middle age in the rearview mirror: “I was 41 going on 18.” Not only is he stuck with the moniker Mortimer, in the midst of a mid-life crisis he quits his uninspiring job as an IRS agent, “a wallet wringer for Uncle Sam.” Yawn! Mort has visions of Sam Spade and buxom blondes, when he becomes a novice at his nephew’s lackluster PI firm in Reno, Nevada.

Meanwhile, Reno’s mayor and city attorney have gone missing, their cars parked at the airport. What nefarious hanky-panky is going on in Nevada’s other Sin City? A few hours into his new career, Mort stumbles onto a mystery that could be a cozy, were it not for the mayor’s head found in Mort’s ex-wife Dallas’ Mercedes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the missing attorney’s decapitated head appears on the ex’s foyer table. Compounding the enigma is the revelation that Dallas had her own hanky-panky going on with the late mayor, who will never again be late for a council meeting. “You don’t gloss over that kind of weirdness.”

"Chuckling through this seductive laugh riot, I realized that I had absorbed something good, sort of like a toddler eating broccoli disguised as ice cream."

Media goons and police --- should that be media and police goons? --- hound Mort and Dallas, “RPD’s two prime suspects.” Did one off Mayor Sjorgen trying to frame the other? After all, TV detective lure suggests that the ex is almost always the guilty party in a whodunit. Moreover, Sjorgen was “the kind of guy who couldn’t pass a mirror without giving it a wink and a loving smile.”

Mort realizes, “I’m not the swiftest pigeon in the flock, and as a private eye I might have trouble finding my hand in my pocket.” He does what few men are willing to do: hire a professional. In this case, the pro PI won’t touch Mort’s case with the proverbial pole-vaulter’s pole. However, the pro PI does refer him to clientless upstart PI Jerry DiFrazzia, only Jerry is spelled Jeri, short for Geraldine. “Pound for pound, she was a bobcat and I was an out-of-shape moose.”

The weirdness that Mort can’t gloss over becomes as eldritch as Key West Fantasy Fest. Jeri --- for whom Mort now works, seeing as how his employer-cum-nephew is Reno’s latest headless horseman --- digs into Sjorgen’s past and unearths unsavory characteristics.

Chuckling through this seductive laugh riot, I realized that I had absorbed something good, sort of like a toddler eating broccoli disguised as ice cream. Humor makes the intense parts palatable, the way Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Oda Mae Brown, provided comic relief in the 1990 film Ghost. The author even imparts philosophy, in his own ice-cream-flavored broccoli way: “Insanity is its own incomprehensible carnival, but it’s probably not a good idea to ask the psychos questions.”

In one of the most bawdily entertaining novels I’ve enjoyed in years, Mortimer Angel is now my favorite go-to gumshoe.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on November 13, 2015

by Rob Leininger

  • Publication Date: December 20, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608092259
  • ISBN-13: 9781608092253