Monday, February 15, 2016

San Francisco P.I. Peter Bragg Is Up to His Neck in Trouble Again

This is the fourth entry in the late Jack Lynch's series featuring San Francisco P.I., Peter Bragg. Originally published in 1984 as Sausalito, it has recently been brought back into print by the people at Brash Books who are re-releasing a number of classic crime novels that have sadly fallen out of print.

The case begins when someone sends racy photographs of a young woman named Melody Moss to her father, Samuel. The father, who is a widower and who has no child other than Melody, is naturally distressed. He's not sure who sent the photos or why, and so he hires Bragg to get him the answers. Bragg suggests that Moss might simply ask his daughter about the pictures, but Moss declines, telling Bragg that he and his daughter don't have the kind of relationship that would allow him to ask such questions. He also forbids Bragg from approaching his daughter about the matter.

Bragg thus approaches the case with one hand effectively tied behind his back. Moss tells him that Melody is engaged to marry a young man named Duffy Anderson, who is the son of Paul Anderson, a rich and powerful local developer. To complicate matters further, Moss's brother, Arthur, is involved in a project with the elder Mr. Anderson to develop a big convention center and resort called Marinship Shores in Sausalito.

The only lead that Moss is able to give Bragg is that he recognizes the place where the photos were taken, a small vacation cabin that he owns up the Pacific Coast. Bragg goes up to check the place out and quickly discovers that Melody and her friends aren't using the cabin only for the purpose of taking racy photographs. 

From there, a relatively simple case mushrooms into something much more complex. Most of it centers on the Marinship Shores development, the construction of which will have serious consequences for those people living in Marin County near the site of the development. In particular, a small group of people who live on houseboats close to the project are being intimidated into leaving their homes, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out who might be behind these actions.

Before long, the bodies are dropping and Peter Bragg is racing as fast as he can to stay one step ahead of the chaos, trying to protect any number of people to whom he has become attached during the course of his investigation. It's a gripping story that races along to a fairly violent conclusion. 

Set in the early 1980s, the book is also a reflection of an earlier time in America, particularly with regard to race relations. Melody Moss and her father are black, as are a couple of other key characters. Melody's fiance and his family are white, and critical to the original premise of the Marinship Shores development is that it will provide jobs to low-income residents of the area, principally blacks. But is the intention genuine or are these people simply being used as pawns in a larger and more nefarious scheme?

All in all, this is a very good read that should appeal to large numbers of crime fiction fans, especially those who relish a good P.I. story where brains, guts and shoe leather are still a detective's principle assets rather than computers, GPS, and cell phones.

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