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by Mark Coggins
Bleak House, November 2009
280 pages
ISBN: 1606480553

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

PI August Riordan is minding his own business, doing laundry at a Laundromat, when a beautiful young woman engages him in some very mild flirtation. They both know it isn't going anywhere, but it's harmless and amusing. She leaves and gets on a cable car. Mundane? Not for long. The grip man on the car has an Uzi and proceeds to kill everyone on the car. He then continues on his way.

Riordan gives chase in his ancient Galaxie, one of the few things he has connecting him to his long-gone father. Riordan does manage to stop the car, but the Galaxie is mortally wounded. Riordan chooses to rebuild, a seemingly crazy option, but the rebuild leads to a few more items that once belonged to his Dad.

As a result of his mild flirtation, Riordan is offered a job by the woman's family: track down the real burial place of Maria, a relative who was estranged from the family when she died in Italy. Riordan thinks this is kind of strange, but it's good money and he figures to make a good faith attempt and walk away.

That doesn't happen. Other people seem to be very interested in that same body and they are always just a step or two behind Riordan, making his life unpleasant. Riordan finally figures out that what everyone is really after is the embalmed body of Evita Peron. The political implications are mind-boggling. The people involved, on all sides, are truly obsessed. Riordan has his own reasons for continuing the search, in spite of the obstacles put in his path.

It's been decades since I read THE BIG SLEEP, so if there are any allusions in THE BIG WAKE-UP, I missed them completely. Coggins has written a very entertaining mystery. His characters are, for the most part, believable. The exceptions? Well, it IS San Francisco. The plot is complex, and again, for the most part believable. Politics and obsessions make it plausible. Coggins' take on a contemporary P.I. is enjoyable and refreshing. He manages to combine mean streets and humor in a main character with some depth to him. This is the fifth novel in the series. The reader doesn't need to have read the first four to understand August Riordan or enjoy THE BIG WAKE-UP.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, December 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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