Blackmail, sexual harassment, murder . . . and a missing dog: eccentric, eco-obsessed LA private eye Charlie Waldo is on the case in this quirky, fast-paced mystery.
Paying a harsh self-imposed penance for a terrible misstep on a case, former LAPD superstar detective Charlie Waldo lives a life of punishing minimalism deep within the woods, making a near religion of his commitment to owning no more than One Hundred Things.
At least, he’s trying to. His PI girlfriend Lorena keeps drawing him back to civilization – even though every time he compromises on his principles, something goes wrong.
And unfortunately for Waldo, all roads lead straight back to LA. When old adversary Don Q strongarms him into investigating the seemingly mundane death of a vagrant, Lorena agrees he can work under her PI license on one condition: he help with a high-maintenance celebrity client, wildly popular courtroom TV star Judge Ida Mudge, whose new mega-deal makes her a perfect target for blackmail.
Reopening the coldest of cases, a decades-old fraternity death, Waldo begins to wonder if the judge is, in fact, a murderer – and if he’ll stay alive long enough to find out.
Pay or Play is the third in the Charlie Waldo series, following Last Looks and Below the Line. Last Looks was turned into a major motion picture, starring Charlie Hunnam as the offbeat private investigator.
In Gould's lively third mystery featuring former L.A. police detective Charlie Waldo (after 2019's Below the Line), Lorena, Waldo's clever and capable girlfriend, coaxes him into joining her detective agency. His first case involves Judge Ida Mudge, who displays her "magisterial badassery" on her mega popular courtroom reality show. Now in negotiations with a first-run syndicator offering her $1 million a day for her show, Mudge is being blackmailed over an incident that occurred 35 years earlier: the presumed fraternity hazing death of a fellow student. Proclaiming her innocence, Mudge orders Waldo to find out the truth. Meanwhile, Don Q, a novel-reading gangster whose crimes "ranged from cold-blooded murder to influencing private-school admissions," demands that Waldo discover the identity of a homeless man found dead at a Sherman Oaks mini-mall and then locate the dead man's dog. With two difficult clients and relations with Lorena teetering toward collapse, Waldo remains focused as ever on doing the right thing. Gould pithily slips in loads of relevant details about homelessness, consumerism, and waste on the way to the satisfying ending. Readers will want to see a lot more of the obsessively virtuous Waldo. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME.