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The Last Striptease    by Michael Wiley order for
Last Striptease
by Michael Wiley
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Driving around Chicago in his well-worn 1989 Buick Skylark, and trying to maneuver around the pot-holes of life, further complicated by bad dreams and a fractured past, private investigator, former cop, and recovering alcoholic Joe Kozmarski has just heard from Peter Rifkin after having had no contact with him for fifteen years, and that is not good news at all to Kozmarski. After all, as Kozmarski sees it, Rifkin was the corrupt judge who was very much responsible for the untimely death of Joe's father.

Now Rifkin wants to offer Kozmarski a job and pay him handsomely - with a whopping $15,000 - and all Kozmarski has to do is find out what really happened to Le Thi Hanh, a young Vietnamese-American woman otherwise known to many of her closest friends and acquaintances as Hannah, a woman with a surprising past who was murdered in an upscale hotel. Police suspect Rifkin's business associate, Bob Piedras, but Rifkin is confident that Kozmarski can uncover the truth and get the seemingly innocent though obnoxious Piedras off the hook.

Kozmarski is reluctant to help. After all, for good reasons he despises Rifkin, but the money is too good (and too much needed) for him to pass up, so the tattered and battered Chicago P.I. begins looking into things. Soon, however, the much expected routine of one bad thing after another gets even worse for Kozmarski: two of Hannah's brothers are determined to make life miserable for everyone; Kozmarski's mother suddenly recruits him as a reluctant though temporary foster-parent for a twelve-year old cousin; Kozmarski's ex-wife Corrine and his good friend (and police officer) Lucinda Juarez complicate his personal life; and then - throwing everything into a complete tail-spin - Peter Rifkin is murdered, Bob Piedras disappears, Rifkin's apparent girlfriend wants to get up-close-and-personal with Kozmarski, and a person who might have had crucial information about Hannah's involvement in something sordid commits suicide without revealing Hannah's unsavory secrets - the secrets that seem to point back to Rifkin and Piedras and may (or may not) explain why and by whom she was murdered.

With more white-knuckle excitement and pulse-pounding surprises than a rush hour taxi ride on Chicago's busiest freeways, The Last Striptease is a superb entertainment and the latest winner in the esteemed Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. With vibrant characterizations and shrewdly conceived plotting, this gritty new novel by an impressive new talent in the private eye fiction genre is certain to win Kozmarski (and author Michael Wiley) plenty of committed fans. Don't miss it!

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