Reduced Circumstances
by Vincent H. O'Neil
(Worldwide, $7.99, NV) ISBN 978-0373-26766-8
****
When Frank Cole's software firm tanked and his marriage fell apart, he found himself in the appropriately named town of Exile on the Florida Panhandle. Frank has been trying to earn as little money as possible while staying alive due to a bankruptcy judgment against him. He has been picking up some work as a fact checker for lawyers and private eyes, but still has his evenings free and so takes the job as night dispatcher for Midnight Cab service.

One morning while the drivers are cleaning their cabs from their evening fares, Billy Lee relates the story of the action at the Seaview Motel the previous night. As Billy Lee was picking up a fare at the motel, the police were there busting a salesman who had a trunk full of drugs. Something doesn't seem quite right to Frank when he hears that four squad cars responded to the original report of a car alarm going off at the motel.

Things pick up at the cab stand when Georgia PI Curtis Winslow shows up looking for Billy's last fare, Dennis Taylor, who has now vanished; he is soon joined in looking for Taylor by a pair of "no, we're not bounty hunters, we're just looking for Dennis" and Dennis's girlfriend. But someone has found Dennis and shot him dead and Frank finds himself with more work than he can handle, and in possession of more knowledge then he realized about the case. He delves into a man whose conman tendencies are genetic, though he may not be as adept a swindler as his parents and that may have gotten him killed and may put Frank in danger as he tries to untangle the case.

Frank is a very interesting character who seems wise beyond his thirty years, though he is still feeling beat up from the loss of his business, the mistakes he knows he made and introspective about his marriage, wondering if it would have failed anyway, even had his business survived. His fellow cabbies are a steadfast bunch who treat Frank as one of their own and offer to help him in their own way.

The laid back Florida setting is anything but, as conmen, questionable PIs and bounty hunters and weeping girlfriends come onto the scene. Once Frank unravels Dennis's real identity, the rest of the pieces to the mystery fall into place. While the plot is mostly routine, it is Frank and his thinking about his past, present and future and his interactions with others that makes this an enjoyable read.

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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