Newbie fiction writer Wilson Toney delivers a lean, humorous, fast-moving crime story with a nod and a wink to pulp fiction maestro Carter Brown. Alibi for a Dead Man, published this December, is the first in what promises to be an entertaining series featuring Bug and Roche, two sharp though weary private dicks. The plot revolves around the aftermath of a multi-million-dollar bank heist, in which the getaway car was involved in a car crash, killing two people. When the nuisance A1 ambulance chaser Joel Cready arrives at the accident site, he’s just in time to get caught up in a staged car crash and is subsequently on the hook for vehicular homicide.
Enter the two main leads—narrator David Roche (pronounced Rock, but deliberately mispronounced by his boss to sound like Roach) and his partner, John Wallis, curiously nicknamed Bug. The two jaded, middle-aged investigators are part of a prosperous, long-established private detective service known as the National Detective Agency.
When their boss, Thompson, asks them to investigate the suspicious crash, they jump at the chance to take a break from gulping down lousy office coffee and, instead, utilize their generous expense account. Believing Cready is blameless, and the deceased driver of the other car was dead before impact, the two P.I’s widen their investigation to include other reported crimes in the area.
Before long, they are interviewing possible suspects involved in the bank robbery and racking up hefty bar tabs in the process.
Meanwhile, the well-off United Transhipment, a money-laundering outfit, retains the services of National Detective Agency hotshot Joe Starkey to trace one of their employees who mysteriously disappeared. Starkey suspects the employee, a man with many aliases, has absconded with company funds.
As each man gets to work on his case, a connection begins to emerge between the cases. Gradually, the trio works together to crack a much larger case, each desperately trying to get their hands on a lovely hunk of reward money.
The consistently entertaining Alibi for a Dead Man winds up to a thrilling, satisfying finale. On the basis of this slick first series entry, Bug and Roche have a long and promising future ahead of them.
(Stark House Press, paperback, $14.95)