The Venus Deal
As World War II home front San Diego deals with blackouts and shortages, 37-year-old ex-cop Tom Hickey is moonlighting as half-owner of Rudy’s Hacienda, thanks to a wife with a taste for jewelry and high society, a teenage daughter in private school, and his own dream of replacing his rowboat with a more substantial craft. But his ticket to the good life, star band singer Cynthia Moon, goes missing, plunging Tom into a wild ride up and down the California coast and into a toxic family, a cult religion, a hit murder attempt, and more mob connections that even his world-weary gaze can see.
Tom is as hard-boiled as detectives come, but self-delusional about his own home and the sanctuary he imagines there—a nice paradox. He battles memories of his creepy-religious upbringing while trying to solve the riddle that is Cynthia. Period details set the scenes well in time and place. The writing style, although sometimes drawing too much attention to itself, at other times soars, as in describing the sounds a mental hospital’s inmate makes as “like a caveman giving orders to the moon.” The novel’s ending is precarious and open-ended enough to haunt.