I’m writing this on 9/11/2014, thirteen years after the al-Qaeda attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Out here, seventy miles north of New York City, we get few worrisome planes over-head and no drones, so far, but drones are likely to play major roles in our lives soon, as they do in this fascinating detective novel by Carac Allison.
The story begins with Chalk’s being hired by a Hollywood mogul, the filthy-rich Hyena, to track down three possible offspring that might have resulted from the mogul’s sperm donations during a period of personal penury. Using skills partly acquired during his short-lived career as an FBI agent, Chalk identifies three probable sons of the Hyena: young men notable for their anti-social activities, not so different from their putative father’s behavior.
Eventually, the young men are recruited into a conspiracy by General Jack Ripper [his pseudonym], a plot that includes crashing drones into buildings along the West Coast. Why? The General is a nut, a very bitter nut.
I found Chalk hard to like. His loss of his son to a conniving wife is sad, but the woman simply was even more unscrupulous than Chalk, who lies his way throughout his pursuit of the truth. A bipolar, manic-depressive, personality barely controlled by drugs and drink gives our hero added depth, although what is at the bottom of that depth is to me unattractive. Well, we find Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes unlovable at times, too. All three are surprisingly effective as detectives.
A sub-plot concerns Bacchus, a man who makes young women disappear, to re-appear as ingredients in the brownies he distributes at rock concerts. A family I know lost their eldest daughter decades ago when she ran away from home in her teens, never to be heard from again. Chalk maintains that there is a “dark pantheon” of serial killers behind the many people who become permanently missing every year.
It takes a brilliant writer to create a plausibly brilliant detective, whether it be Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Allison’s private investigator is nick-named “Chalk,” but his English professor father had christened him “Chaucer.” Chalk’s eight tattoos are the covers of eight great books, several of which I would have chosen, also. None of which I would have painted indelibly on my body, however. Chalk’s opinions about these books and his knowledge about a wide variety of topics make his brilliance credible.
Carac Allison has written a fascinating novel, succeeding in solving the central puzzle while leaving some loose ends to be tied up in a sequel or two or three. I await the next one eagerly.
I gave this novel 5 stars in my simlar amazon.com review.