Allen K. Huffstutter’s winning new police procedural follows two Los Angeles police detectives on the trail of an unusual serial killer.
When CEO Henry Watson is murdered by car bomb, grizzled LAPD long-timer Sam Siemen and his new partner, introverted rookie Ski Johnson, wind up with the case. The two cops are at a dead end until Katherine Newberry comes to see them. Like Watson, Katherine’s grandfather, Jonathan, was also a wealthy man killed by a car bomb. Katherine is sure the two deaths are connected, and she insists on involving herself in Sam and Ski’s investigation.
As the three discuss their investigation at a bar, they meet Donny Rausch, a stockbroker who, having eavesdropped on their conversation, accidentally gives them the key to the mystery. But there are plenty of twists to go – involving a former call girl, a homeless schizophrenic, and a sleazy time-share salesman, among others – before the killer is brought to justice.
The motive behind the killings is ingenious, and Huffstutter clearly brings his prior experience working in finance to the table. For instance, Donny offers a clear (and well-written) explanation of how and why to short a stock.
Sam and Ski are well-drawn and engaging, each archetypes, yet with quirky personality traits that make them layered and interesting. Huffstutter’s smooth, often witty prose (“The rich aren’t immune from killing off a spouse now and then, so prior investigations had exposed Sam to some pretty snazzy houses”) is a delight.
The plot could be tightened by eliminating point-of-view chapters for some of the minor characters. But this is easily overlooked in light of the overall high quality of the book.
Key Man is an accomplished page-turner that should have particular appeal for fans of Christopher Reich and Michael Sears.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.