Sam Hill, Author . Carroll & Graf $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1390-5

The hardest thing about loading your first mystery with all sorts of tricks, treats and relatively original concepts is what to do for an encore. Following his delightful debut, Buzz Monkey (2003), which introduced adrenaline junkie/international mercenary/arcane-quotation expert Tip Kiernan, Hill hits this wall hard in the sequel. There are some alluring leftovers: Tip can still tell us that "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" didn't come from either Abraham Lincoln or the Bible (it was the 16th-century Dutch philosopher Erasmus) and then, minutes later, take down a crew of three thugs hired to send a message. But almost perversely, Hill turns everything that was great fun in Buzz Monkey into a downer. Among other problems, Tip's quotation-checking business, Polymath, is failing after his partner/lover runs off with the company's money and clients. Somehow, the prospect of earning 20 grand for recovering a famous Confederate flag (the one used to staunch the blood of dying General Stonewall Jackson) doesn't get either Tip or the reader really excited: it's just a job, even if the outcome does involve what the book's promotional copy calls "a raucous jaunt" with some zany cohorts—all of whom had a much better time in Hill's first book. Agent, Philip Spitzer. (Oct. 10)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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