Private investigator August Riordan returns to San Francisco to avenge the death of his friend and one-time partner, Chris Duckworth. Duckworth has taken over Riordan’s old business, his old office and even his old apartment, and Riordan suspects Duckworth’s death is linked to the missing person case he was working when he died.
An alluring young woman named Angelina hired Duckworth to look for her half-sister, but what Riordan finds instead is a murderous polyamorous family intent on claiming a previously unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.
Following clues from Duckworth and a trail of mutilated bodies left by the family, Riordan soon realizes that avenging his partner will first involve recovering the manuscript—and then saving Angelina and himself from kidnap, torture and death. As the bodies pile up, Riordan must work with old allies and enemies to untangle Duckworth’s last case before time runs out.
Praise for THE DEAD BEAT SCROLL:
“Slick, sardonic and suspenseful—everything a great thriller should be.” —Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels
“Fast-paced excursion into the remnants of San Francisco's lost bohemia…Alternately comic, sad, lurid, impossible, blasphemous, and just plain fun.” —Domenic Stansberry, Edgar Award-winning author of the North Beach Mystery Series
Coggins's uneven seventh August Riordan mystery (after 2015's No Hard Feelings) travels down familiar hard-boiled paths to a disappointing reveal. When Riordan, an old-school PI uncomfortable with modern technology, learns that Chris Duckworth, his sometime assistant and former best friend, is missing, he flies from his home in Palm Springs, Calif., to San Francisco, where five years earlier a case they worked together destroyed their friendship. Then an old frenemy in the SFPD, Lt. "Smiling Jack" Kittredge, informs Riordan that Duckworth has been found, shot in the back of the head, in a sleazy massage parlor. When Riordan checks out his friend's most recent clients, he hits a promising lead with the sultry Angelina Evangelista. Angelina retained Duckworth to trace Corinne White, her half-sister, and when Riordan picks up Corinne's trail, it ends with his discovering her corpse, shot with the same caliber gun that killed Duckworth. Coggins saddles Riordan with an improbable vigilante justice backstory, and his setting is less distinctive than the San Francisco of Marcia Muller's PI, Sharon McCone. That said, noir fans not looking for novelty should be satisfied.