Tuesday, December 4, 2018

San Diego P.I. Rick Cahill Returns in a great New Novel from Matt Coyle

San Diego P.I. Rick Cahill is among the most tortured protagonists in modern crime fiction. He's haunted by events from his past; he's on the outs with virtually every law enforcement agency he encounters; as a practical matter, he has no one in his life, save for his faithful dog, and there always seems to be a group of Very Bad People who are intent on doing him serious harm. And yet, fortunately for his clients and even more so for the readers who follow his cases, Cahill soldiers on, trying as best he can to do right by his clients while at the same time struggling to survive and to somehow maintain a very tenuous grip on his place in the world. 

In this case, Cahill is hired by a radio station to protect its most valuable personality, the sultry host of "Naomi At Night," who has a huge following. Inevitably, though, that following also includes any number of creeps and weirdos who imagine that Naomi is speaking directly to them individually and who would like to get to know her in person. When one of them sends a message to the station that appears to threaten the star if she does not comply with his demands, the station manager steps in and hires Cahill.

Rick moves immediately to provide direct protection for Naomi while at the same time he attempts to identify and neutralize the potential threat. This will not be easy. Cahill understands that the threat could come from someone who just recently tuned in to Naomi's radio show. On the other hand, it could also have come from someone out of her past. But the radio star effectively handcuffs Rick by initially refusing to tell him anything about her life before she suddenly showed up on the radio only a couple of years earlier. She also refuses to allow him to involve the police, even though it's apparent early on that they should be involved.

Just as Cahill takes this assignment, though, his past jumps up to grab him in the form of some Russian mobsters to whom he is indebted because of action that took place in an earlier novel. These are not people who take "no" for an answer, and they give Cahill a task which seems simple on the one hand but very confusing on the other. In order to protect himself, Rick will now have to dig into the mystery in an effort to determine what it is that the Russians are really attempting to accomplish.

As the book progresses, Cahill is pulled back and forth between the two cases, attempting to do the best he can, especially for Naomi, and getting virtually no sleep in the process. Both investigations turn out to be very complex, and each will take a number of unexpected twists and turns.

Matt Coyle has earlier demonstrated that he is a master of the modern noir novel, and Wrong Light will only enhance his reputation in this regard. This is a very dark story with a flawed but very appealing protagonist at its center. It will appeal to anyone who likes his or her crime fiction with a sharp, hard edge. 4.5 stars.

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