Detective Lammers yanked the stainless-steel chair back and sat, propping his elbows on the interview table. Countless interrogations like this with his sleeves rolled up had turned his elbows leathery. Under the hot lights sat Hargreave, the unlicensed PI who’d given Lammers’ precinct the hot squats for the last year. Hargreave laced his fingers over his ample gut, pretending to stay cool as a cucumber despite the sweat trickling down his collar.
“So,” Lammers finally said. “Whaddya got for me?”
Hargreave grinned as he popped his attaché. “First one,” he drawled, sliding a book across the table, “is Barney Rostaing’s Breeders. I’d call this an unconventional crime novel. There’s no detective story or heist as such. It circles some questionable characters as they mesh themselves in a constant dance of moral compromise. Each sellout causes one more, and one more, and one more, until they discover they’ve sold their souls.”
Lammers studied the cover art. “Jockeys on horses,” he said, stabbing it with his finger. “Something about racing, I gather?”
“Yep. Everyone’s so busy looking for juice in baseball and cycling, seems we never knew how crooked horseracing is. But when millions ride on breeding rights, which only go to winners, people will cross unbelievable lengths to make their horses win. Rules, laws, and common human decency stop mattering.” Hargreave leaned in toward Lammers, flashing an expensively white smile. “But that ain’t even the best bit.”
“No?” Lammers scootched back slightly from Hargreave’s stale cabbage breath. “What is?”
“Race.” Hargreave leaned back, smug like he’d flipped trip aces. “The gentility of America’s whitest sport hides some pretty grotesque racism. Black stablehands, Hispanic jockeys, and the first black trainer in a really, really white sport. It’s a seething cauldron of subsumed hatred. Plus old money, new money, sexuality...” Hargreave tapped his knuckle on the book. “If you can imagine something to make people hate each other, this world has it.”
“Sounds good,” Lammers said, nodding slowly. “What else you got?”
Hargreave flourished a second book. “Tony Lindsay’s More Boy Than Girl stars Chicago’s only girl pimp. Dai Break Jones was born royalty to the Emperors of Game, and she don’t mind being the only woman in a hyper-masculine world. She just wants what’s hers. So she joins her daddy’s gang, pushing crack and raiding townie joints. But she has a side income running two ho’es [sic] and showing them who’s boss.”
“Sweet,” Lammers said. “And slim, too. I like it already.”
“Wait a minute,” Hargreave said, flashing a stop gesture. “Hold on. Because this one has an awesome concept, great characters, and mean black urban English. But just as it promises us a mind-blowing mix of Superfly and Donnie Brasco, it stops. Really, just boom. It’s slim because the end reads like Lindsay got tired. So many excellent story threads, and he doesn’t finish them.”
Lammers nodded. “Maybe I’ll wait. Anything else?”
“One last.” Hargreave produced a thick paperback and tossed it to Lammers. “Randy Singer’s False Witness mixes John Grisham tension with breakthrough technology to create something familiar, yet nothing like anything I’ve seen before. LA bail bondsman Clark Shealy has forty-eight hours to find Dr. Kumari, whose algorithm could invalidate global Internet security. If Shealy can’t find Kumari, the Chinese Triad starts cutting on his wife.”
“Ooh, sounds gripping,” Lammers said.
“That’s just the first part. Four years later, Atlanta law student Jamie Brock inherits a runaway defendant with Triad ties. Seems they think Brock, too, can access this priceless information, and they don’t mind torturing her within inches of her sanity. But just as she turns her razor-sharp mind on bringing the Triad down, she realizes the very people she most depends on may not deserve her trust.”
“I like it,” Lammers said, grinning. “I bet it has all the classics: conspiracies, action, romance.”
“Well, the romance is pretty chaste,” Hargreave said. “This comes from a Christian publishing house.”
Lammers’ face fell. “Christian? So this book is full of Jesus talk?”
“No, not really. There’s a sermon around page 280, and a subplot about the persecuted church in India, but Singer tells a good story. He isn’t preachy, he’s a really, really good storyteller who happens to be Christian.”
Lammers studied the book in his hand. “I’ll give it a try.”
“You should,” Hargreave said. “It’s excellent.”
Lammers squinted at Hargreave as he tucked the books under his arm. “Awright then,” he said. “Same time next week?”
“I’ll be on you like a bad rash,” Hargreave agreed, as Lammers turned and strode purposefully from the interview room.