The second in the Jake Samson series. Jake Samson is an ex cop, after a brief career bashing in the heads of university students in Chicago. He moved to California, and set up shop doing…. well, nothing, actually, having a small inheritance from somebody and some savings. How can you just do nothing? Oh, yeah. Right. Like me. I do nothing. Hey, I have an excuse. I am retired. The problem with being retired is that when you decide to take a day off, your spouse says, “A day off from what?”
Enough of the trials and tribulations of being retired. Let’s talk about Jake. What he DOES seem to do is take on assignments from his friends to investigate murders. But he is not now a homicide detective, nor a regular cop, nor even a P.I. He is just a schlub without the cajones to tell these people NO, I am not licensed to do this. So off he goes, clomping through cases in his heavy-handed way. But I do have to say in his favor that I have found out that people will answer all kinds of direct questions no matter who you are and whether or not you have the right to ask them.
Well, throughout this case, we get the impression that the police are not involved in it at all. I would have thought, from the three thousand other detective stories I have read in my lifetime that the police would be all over HIM to step away and stop interfering in police business, but hey, what do I know? I am just a humble peasant.
This case involves the stabbing death of an unlikable employee of Bright Future, a business that sells home learning courses. He is no great loss to humanity, but the prob is that the (also unlikable) son-in-law of the publisher of Probe investigative magazine and friend of Jake, has stumbled upon the body, and run away yelling. The knife was found, with his initials on it. The police have picked him up and charged him with the crime. This all takes place in a kind of remote hillside community in Marin. The publisher asks Jake to investigate FOC, (free of charge) because he can’t afford Jake’s fee. (How can he have a fee? He is not a professional PI.) But he will pay expenses. This is where the title of the book comes from. In poker, apparently, when you want a better hand and ask for another without penalty, it is called a free draw. I don’t know. I’m a pinochle player myself. That and Go Fish.
The SIL’s lawyer doesn’t care to speak to Jake (oh, hey, there’s a surprise, him being a nobody and all), so Jake goes off on his own to play Sherlock Holmes, or Gentleman Private Sleuth or whatever, along with his pal, Rosie the carpenter. Oh, yeah, if this is all Greek to you, just pop over to my thoughts on the first volume of the series Samson’s Deal to get the background.
We have some dysfunctional family action, some screwball residents of the canyon community, and Jake actually arranges a denouement in a bookstore where the police detective has been stationed to hear the confession.
Sigh. I mean, really.