By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE on July 5, 2015
Bad Karma is pure, unadulterated fun. The setup: Jack McCoul is a former con artist who is developing a computer app that will guide shady travelers to the best opportunities for sin in their business or vacation site. An old accomplice complicates his life by attempting to steal a solid gold Buddha that he once owned and had to give up to save his life. The little Buddha, as it is known, has now been purchased by a Silicon Valley tech baron, married to the thief’s old girl friend. When the tech baron is found with his head bashed in (perhaps using the little Buddha as weapon), Jack is drawn into the web of sin. To further complicate things, two thugs hired by an unknown baddy are trying to ‘persuade’ him (in a host of unpleasant ways) to turn over the data that drives his (hopefully) killer app.
Jack is aided by a tough old pal named Hark, who owns an auto body shop, his wife Katie (a sexy dish who is greener than Al Gore), an island queen office manager and a coder named Dupree who goes by the handle of ‘Do Pray’. In one of the most clever and hilarious set pieces in contemporary crime writing, Do Pray explains how he will counteract the efforts of hackers to steal their app. He explains his countermoves in terms of the behaviors of insects native to his Louisiana home. The praying mantis of the enemy hackers is countered by the mite and a stinkbug is set out to lure further praying mantises, and so on. This is tech talk cum entomology and a sweet piece of writing.
Jack must fend off the ministrations of his old partner in crime, keep the hired baddies at bay, deal with some troublesome lawyers and an SFPD detective still in love with his wife, find the actual murderer and keep his wife satiated (without expanding his carbon footprint).
The San Francisco setting is nicely realized, the plot is brisk and engaging, the characters great fun. This is one of the most imaginative pieces of crime writing that I have recently encountered. Bad Karma is the second novel in the Jack McCoul series. The first book is at the top of my to-read list.
If you savor clever, comic crime writing, this is a don’t miss. Since many of the main characters have known each other since high school, the resulting story is a little bit Dan Jenkins, a little bit Damon Runyon, a little bit Carl Hiassen and a little bit Dashiel Hammett. It’s 100% fun.