“The Big Wake-Up” is light and snappy and packed with attitude. It has more graves, graveyards, gravestones, crypts, mausoleums, coffins, embalming fluid and urns than a vampire-werewolf-Hamlet film festival and it has Eva Peron.
Yes, Eva Peron. Or at least, what’s left of her. Or at least, maybe it’s her. Or not.
“The Big Wake-Up” has August Riordan and, even though #5 in the August Riordan series was my first, I now know that means pitch-perfect dry humor and an interesting, fully realized assortment of co-workers and associates.
The setting is San Francisco. Riordan is a private detective but he won’t be giving master classes at the convention. What he lacks in technology skills and sleuth savvy, he balances with determination and a gut load of zeal. He’s easily drawn in by the stunning Melina Rivero, sister of the beautiful Araceli Rivero, whom August meets in a Laundromat doing his wash (always a good indication of the income level of your leading man) in the opening scene. Araceli’s demise comes quickly in a heart-pounding scene straight out of “Bullitt,” with cable cars thrown in. (Good use of the scenery at hand, Mr. Coggins.)
August Riordan has a bit of Nick Charles in him and more than a little Philip Marlowe. (The title alone should give that away.) Riordan isn’t quite as world-weary as Marlowe but just as good at flippant repartee as Charles. Mystery fans will recognize his heritage, but that doesn’t mean he’s not fresh and fun to spend time with. Coggins keeps Riordan’s point of view plastered on every page.
One long-ish sample of Coggins’ sure writing style:
“The funeral director’s office was big, cold and Gothic-looking and didn’t exactly convey a feeling of sympathy or desire to help you through troubled times. The ceiling was vaulted with massive oak beams running beneath it, and light came from a single lancet window and a couple of heavy plaster wall sconces that you could have fried turkeys in. Melina Rivero’s heels clicked across the stone floor as she led me to the corner of the room where a bald man with a Jimmy Durante nose and a large, square-rimmed glasses waited behind a carved desk. To his left was a younger version of the same model—including the eggplant-shaped shnoz—but with more iron-gray hair remaining on top of his head. Given Melina and Araceli’s appearance, I decided Mrs. Rivero had to be a real looker because dad was watering down the handsome genes something fierce.”
There’s a big, messy (in a good way) cemetery scene at the end of “The Big Wake-Up” and the body of Eva Peron (or is it?) has more adventures than Rin Tin Tin.
Riordan out-maneuvers the cops, finds himself entangled in a web that has its roots in Argentine intrigue (don’t want to say more than that) and there is one last cemetery to visit, one last grave to dig.
Or two. (Love the detail right down to the end. The backhoe operator is drinking Mr. Pibb.)
“The Big Wake-Up” is a 5-Hour Energy shot, no snoozing allowed.
(Final note: love those chapter titles and photographs too.)