cover image The Answer Man

The Answer Man

Roy Johansen, Dale Van Every. Bantam Books, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10607-7

Down and out in Atlanta, Ken Parker is a polygraph examiner whose life just can't get any worse--or so he thinks. His wife has just left him, his car has been repossessed and his disabled Gulf War veteran brother is being swindled by an insurance company. Desperate for cash, Ken accepts an illegal $50,000 job from beautiful defense attorney Myth Daniels to teach her client, embezzler Burton Sabini, how to beat a polygraph. Then matters spin downward from bad to horrific. A polygraph test subject whose life was ruined by Ken's faulty reading attacks Ken and then turns up dead in a Dumpster. Sabini passes his polygraph test but later is also found dead in an alley, with Ken's phone number on him. Under suspicion for both killings, Ken is now suspicious of Myth. Enter Hound Dog, a 21-year-old woman whose obsession is getting information from a police scanner to find crime scenes to photograph; she delivers some bad news to Ken about Myth's past. Trying to clear his name, Ken stumbles across another murder, an attack on Hound Dog's boyfriend and a suspect who turns out to be Ken's still-beloved ex-wife. The offbeat narrative of Johansen's debut races cleanly through a maze of techno clues and multiple suspects, pulling readers along for a quirky ride with likable companions. Most notable of these is Ken, a classic amateur thriller hero who suffers endless humiliations while solving just enough of the puzzle to put everyone in grave danger when he guesses wrong. He deserves a sequel, and this novel's bittersweet finale gives strong hope of that. (Apr.)