cover image Baby’s First Felony

Baby’s First Felony

John Straley. Soho Crime, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61695-878-7

Shamus Award–winner Straley humanizes slapstick mayhem in his exceptional seventh Cecil Younger mystery (after 2001’s Cold Water Burning). Cecil, an investigator for the Public Defender Agency in rainy, grimy Sitka, Alaska, does his best for pathetic and dangerous clients. Unfortunately, a war for control of the local meth trade makes Cecil the holder of a bag of drug money, a bystander during the murder of a Mexican drug mule, and the designated assassin of a female witness against the would-be drug boss, a right-wing lunatic. If Cecil doesn’t kill the woman, his kidnapped 13-year-old daughter, Blossom, will die. Since he can’t trust official law enforcement officers, he must gather his own rescue squad, including his profoundly pissed-off wife, Jane Marie, and his autistic best friend, Todd. The results are hilarious and horrendous, since Straley never forgets that real, vulnerable people are involved. Interspersed with mordant thoughts about the criminal justice system, the novel builds to a conclusion that’s both satisfying and discomforting. Readers will hope they won’t have to wait 17 years for Cecil’s next adventure. (July)