cover image Pay or Play

Pay or Play

Howard Michael Gould. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5085-0

In Gould’s lively third mystery featuring former L.A. police detective Charlie Waldo (after 2019’s Below the Line), Lorena, Waldo’s clever and capable girlfriend, coaxes him into joining her detective agency. His first case involves Judge Ida Mudge, who displays her “magisterial badassery” on her mega popular courtroom reality show. Now in negotiations with a first-run syndicator offering her $1 million a day for her show, Mudge is being blackmailed over an incident that occurred 35 years earlier: the presumed fraternity hazing death of a fellow student. Proclaiming her innocence, Mudge orders Waldo to find out the truth. Meanwhile, Don Q, a novel-reading gangster whose crimes “ranged from cold-blooded murder to influencing private-school admissions,” demands that Waldo discover the identity of a homeless man found dead at a Sherman Oaks mini-mall and then locate the dead man’s dog. With two difficult clients and relations with Lorena teetering toward collapse, Waldo remains focused—as ever—on doing the right thing. Gould pithily slips in loads of relevant details about homelessness, consumerism, and waste on the way to the satisfying ending. Readers will want to see a lot more of the obsessively virtuous Waldo. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME. (Dec.)