Sadly, The Big Exit don’t got that swing, which will be a keen disappointment to those who loved the author’s debut, Knife Edge.
The Big Exit starts out promisingly enough: a slow-building typical noir riff played against the high-tech age, full of iPhones and Google references, as well as plenty of good ol’ betrayal, greed, and murder. Affable former marketing geek Richie Forman’s just been sprung after serving seven years for vehicular manslaughter—a crime of which he has no recollection—and is intent on rebuilding his life. But when his ex-best friend Mark McGregor, the millionaire software developer who stole his fiancée while he was in the big house (and who may have framed Richie), is found hacked to pieces in the garage of his palatial Silicon Valley digs, Richie is—you guessed it—ground zero in the suspect department. So what’s an ex-con (and part-time professional Frank Sinatra impersonator) to do? Muddle around until the end of the book, apparently, trying to solve the crime, while the bouncing ball of a plot goes all over the place.
The tactic of telling the story by following various characters backfires. There’s Hank Madden, the world-weary homicide dick; Marty Lowenstein, the spotlight-chewing lawyer for the Exoneration Foundation who has taken on Richie’s case; Beth Hill, Richie’s conflicted former lover; Tom Bender, a full-of-himself tech blogger; and too many others. We never get to know or really care about most of them, and all the hopping around and “quirkiness” sandbags whatever forward momentum might have been generated. Like, sure, it’s funny when Richie slips into his Frankie persona while being grilled by the cops, but it’s not that funny. So why bother?
Given all the good intentions that sputter out and the Rat Pack coolness-by-association that never quite comes off, perhaps a Peter Lawford impersonation might have been a better bet.