Wednesday, March 5, 2014

RunoffRunoff by Mark Coggins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mark Coggins' "Runoff", the fourth book in the August Riordan series, is this author's first book for me. August is a private investigator in San Francisco as well as a bass player in a jazz band. In an additional quirk (it seems the more quirks a P.I. has the better), Mr. Riordan uses a cross-dressing sidekick in his crime-solving endeavors.

Leonora Lee, a powerful "overlady" of the San Francisco Chinese community hires August to investigate irregularities in recent city mayoral elections, related to software that handles the touch-screen voting machines. Quickly, the voting fraud case becomes a double murder case and Mr. Riordan and those close to him are in grave danger.

The plot is often implausible but the bits about San Francisco local politics (Green Party, fight against gentrification, the general dirt of politics, etc.) are somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, the author is not able to convey the San Francisco atmosphere. Even though he constantly throws at the reader the names of Chinatown streets, bars, and buildings, it is not enough to evoke the sense of the place, which is disappointing because, to me, San Francisco is the most interesting city in the U.S.

The passage about a battle between a backhoe and a fire hydrant is pretty funny. The writing is competent, if overly chatty. Some professional reviewers compare Mr. Coggins' novels to works of Chandler, which is totally ridiculous. Several Chandler's books are literature while "Runoff" is just a pleasant and fast read.

Two and a half stars.

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