cover image The Syracuse Codex

The Syracuse Codex

Jim Nisbet, . . Dennis McMillan, $35 (469pp) ISBN 978-0-939767-52-6

A floozy's murder jump-starts a caper mixing scholarly skullduggery and hard-boiled mayhem in Nisbet's byzantine biblio-mystery. San Francisco frame maker Danny Kestrel has just driven away from a one-night stand with nymphomaniac art patron Renee Knowles when she's bumped off with a single gunshot, leaving him the main suspect in her killing. Danny investigates Renee's dealings in the underground antique trade and immediately runs afoul of crooks convinced that she passed him a secret treasure she finagled in her final days. Gyrating events eventually lead Danny to an antiquarian text that reveals evidence damning a sixth-century Roman empress for intrigues involving her son and some priceless trinkets, all of which seem to have bearing on Renee's sordid activities. The convoluted plot makes for a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, but it calls for more talk than action. Fortunately, Nisbet (Price of the Ticket ) knows that translating esoteric arcana through the speech of colorfully eccentric characters can make the stuffiest details entertaining. These and other amusing winks and nudges poke fun at the Dan Brown school of suspense fiction, even as they evoke it. Agent, Matt Bialer at Sanford Greenburger Associates. (Nov.)