(pb; 2004: published by Hard Case Crime)
From the back cover:
“Jake Danser has it all: a beautiful wife, a house in the California hills, and a high-profile job as a forensic psychologist. But he’s also got a mistress. And when she’s found strangled to death with his necktie, the police show up at his door. Now it’s up to Jake to prove he didn’t do it. But how can he, when all the evidence says he did?
“As Jake’s life crumbles around him, he races to find proof of his innocence. And with every step, the noose is tightening..."
Suspenseful, clever noir fiction, with an underlying uneasiness that becomes increasingly evident as the plot advances. The killer is easy to spot, though author Stansberry throws in plenty of red herrings, which are expertly placed; it’s simply that the killer reveals too much through his actions.
Narrated by Jake Danser, a charming (if harried) lady’s man whose second marriage on the rocks, it’s a briskly-told, noir-as-noir-gets story.
My only real nit is that the narrator-protagonist suffers a brief bout of stupidity about midway through the novel, when he lies to the cops about his relationship to one of the other characters. It’s a scene where he could clear himself, and theoretically catch the killer, but he pulls a pseudo-Clinton, jeopardizing his chance to prove his innocence.
A minor nit, but it’s a bump in the road, one that jars the reader’s attention for a second.
Otherwise, this is a highly-recommended read for noir afficionados. Stansberry’s prose isn’t as hard-boiled as Mickey Spillane’s (few non-Spillane works are), but it definitely is a close cousin.