This sixth outing for PI Frank Johnson is another solid entry in an already strong series. It also continues something of a banner year for author Lynskey, who scored back in the summer with the noir hit LAKE CHARLES and then again this fall with the crime thriller ASK THE DICE. Earlier, in the spring, he kicked things off with the well-received cozy mystery QUIET ANCHORAGE … The guy can do it all.
But, while I'm inclined to check out anything with Lynskey's byline, I have an admitted bias for good private eye thrillers so the Frank Johnson books are my favorites. By the way, in addition to the novels, several Johnson short stories have also been published, including one collection titled OUT OF TOWN A FEW DAYS.
THE ZINC ZOO, set in 2005, finds Johnson recently returned from a grueling overseas case. His life is in transition, as he and his fiancé Dreema are now living together and Frank has moved from his beloved Pelham to the suburbs of Richmond … the dreary gray sameness of this setting amounting to the "zinc zoo" of the title. Furthermore, Frank is on the outs with his friend and former boss, high-profile attorney Robert Gatlin, who is about to marry a woman Frank suspects—but cannot prove—to be a cold-blooded killer. Without clients being steered his way by Gatlin, Frank's difficulties in adjusting to the changes in his life are only aggravated by having little or no call for his PI services.
And then Zani Huang shows up wanting to hire him to find her missing husband. From there things build momentum rapidly and, before you know it, Frank has found the corpse of a murder victim, his client has disappeared, he's been framed for the murder and finds himself on the run from the cops. From there the pace never lets up. Aided by his bounty-hunter pal Gerald, Frank races to stay ahead of the police as he searches to find both his missing client and her husband and at the same time try to solve the murder he has been tagged for in order to clear himself. And, just incidentally, he is also working to solidify his relationship with Dreema and prevent his friend Gatlin from marrying the woman with the arsenic green eyes whom Frank believes is hell bent on making herself a widow (again) as soon as possible.
The writing is fast-paced and spot-on descriptive as presented in Lynskey's distinct writing style. The plot—along with a couple of subplots—is complex and intriguing, with some unexpected turns and a tension-filled double twist near the end. The secondary characters are colorful and well realized. And the action, when it comes, is kick-ass.
Not a lot more you could want in a private eye thriller. This one delivers the goods. Strongly recommended.
Persevere --- WD