Former cop-turned-personal trainer Jack Vaughn is summoned by former client Colonel Andrew Patterson, a wealthy pharmaceuticals bigwig, to untangle a troubled tale of blackmail, pornography and murder in Miami Beach--a tale intimately involving Patterson's daughter Vivian. Complicating the matter further: Vivian was Vaughn's former girlfriend, and he's not quite over her yet, even if he should be. "If trouble had a body," Vaughn comments, "hers was it."
Straits of Fortune offers several nods to Chandler and not just in the wisecracking turns of phrase. (Think The Big Sleep: General Sternwood, his daughters Vivian and Carmen, nudie pictures, blackmail.) Neither parody nor pastiche, the novel pleases in its own right, with equal parts adventure, detective story and noir--albeit a sunny brand of the latter, given the setting. Hired to sink a yacht and destroy evidence damning to the Pattersons, Vaughn soon discovers that the sordid story has even more sinister layers, involving drug trafficking, corporate espionage, and several betrayals. Along the way, he crosses paths with the FBI, CIA, DEA and Border Patrol--and more than crosses paths with that sultry femme fatale at the novel's heart (though his trust of her strains credibility at several points).
Gagliano captures the spirit and spectrum of Miami Beach: the sexually liberal nightlife, the drug scene, even some immigrant issues. He's also likely to capture a batch of fans, who will doubtless be eager for the next installment of the inevitable series to come.