Tracer, Inc.: A Mystery Introducing the Tracer Family

Jeff Andrus, Author
Jeff Andrus, Author Scribner Book Company $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-684-19705-0
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Former personnel manager John Tracer launches his career as a PI in an uninspired adventure whose flaws may derive from Andrus's work as a screenwriter. Some passages read like scenes from a B movie, while John's wife and kids play TV family sitcom roles. Anne Walker hires Tracer to search discreetly for Jenny Mendoza, her cleaning lady's teenage daughter, who has disappeared from her foster home in Carmel. Mrs. Mendoza is supposedly soothing her jangled nerves in Mexico, and Ms. Walker, preparing for her upcoming wedding to a socially prominent man, doesn't want to answer ``a bunch of sordid questions.'' John doggedly digs up just the sort of dirt his client had wanted to avoid, putting his family in danger from some thugs who are also searching for Jenny-although the villains are disposed of (at least temporarily) in slapstick style. That the bumbling, well-intentioned, somewhat endearing fledgling PI is central to the story's resolution seems in great part an accident, and this dependence on chance deprives this tale of the sense of inevitability that governs more accomplished mysteries. (Nov.)
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