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Dangerous Games: A Jack Liffey Mystery    by John Shannon order for
Dangerous Games
by John Shannon
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Jack Liffey is a private investigator, professional searcher and saver of lost children. His girlfriend, Sergeant Gloria Ramirez, is with the Los Angeles Police Department. Gloria's eighteen-year old niece Luisa Wilson has vanished from a small reservation, the Owens Valley Paiute Indian rancherio. Luisa had threatened to run away to the porn world, and was determined to find a protector. (In her diary, Luisa writes, 'My protector came to talk to me & he didn't even ask for sex tonight. I wonder if this is a compliment to my dignified manner or if I look too Indian for him to want me.') Luisa finds what she is looking for, more or less, as she is shifted from one 'motley band' to another, including money-making, low-lifes in the phone-sex/porn industry, gang members, and filmers of brutality.

Sgt. Gloria asks Jack to look into Luisa's disappearance, beginning with a visit to the reservation and a talk with Luisa's mother. While Jack is gearing up to search for Gloria's niece, his sixteen-year old daughter Maeve takes a bullet in a gang drive-by shooting, when Jack is working in the yard. Jack doesn't tell the police that he can identify the shooter (in fact, he has already recognized Thumb Estrada from a police line-up), and sets out to find Thumb on his own. A twist to the search is that Jack offers the kid a chance to redeem himself by caring for the lawn at Jack's (Gloria's) place. Thumb cannot explain why he shot a round of bullets, and says it was just something that happened with no intention of hitting anyone. Jack Liffey thinks he's got a good shot at putting a youngster on the right track.

Along with the main events, the author inserts off-the-track happenings, such as the fellows who are making brutality films to sell, and a famed porno queen 'Little Deer' who is found to be ill with AIDS. This book isn't really a mystery, but rather a collection of slightly connected situations, without plot, character build-up, or specific direction. Dangerous Games will be enjoyed by those curious about the world of gangs, brutality and porn movie-makers, crooks and drugs, and pimps. Though I was touched by reading of Jack Liffey's efforts to make a difference in some lives, I found the most exciting part of the story to be a wildfire that puts Jack and Luisa at risk late in the novel.

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