Jack is actually on his second career. Identifying himself as a "finder of missing children," he came to this calling after losing his job in the aerospace industry. On this case, the kid he's been hired to locate (whose dad is out of work, too) is a teenager who's apparently fallen prey to a secretive religious cult. Or so his mother fears. But, as Jack rather quickly discovers, the truth regarding Jimmy Mardesich is a lot stranger than he bargained for.
Meanwhile, who are the thugs with the peculiar sense of humor who've been stopping by Jack's condo and menacing both Jack and his girlfriend Marlena? They manage to be pretty scary, relying simply on such household staples as deodorant and shaving cream. And what is that toxic cloud streaming across Los Angeles, emanating from the chemical holding tank known respectfully as "Big Bertha?"
Don't be surprised if there's a happy ending. In the author's own words, the Mardesiches, with young Jimmy home again and attending community college, are yet "another family saved from the brink of doom by the timely intervention of Jack Liffey, always standing at moral attention over the world. Wire Balladin, Culver City." It is difficult to strike a balance between humor and homicide, delivering the right amount of mayhem and staying on message when it comes to the things that really count. Elmore Leonard, for one, is a genius at it. But John Shannon, a new guy on the mystery block (his earlier Liffey titles are Concrete River and Cracked Earth), is doing a fine job, and Jack already seems like an old friend. --Otto Penzler