With the author’s extensive background in contemporary military engagements at critical locations around the globe and profound affection for the city of New Orleans pre- and post-Katrina, he creates a complex protagonist with the varied skills befitting a modern warrior. Assisted by sophisticated technology, former cop Cliff St. James is currently a private investigator on special assignment, thanks to Chief Pointer of the NOPD, who provides a written statement authorizing St. James to assist Detective Honey Baybee. Baybee and St. James are investigating the brutal murder of two affluent men found in a rough part of town, gay lovers Ty Parks and Del Breaux, employees of NASA’s nearby Michoud facility.
The earliest results of their investigation suggest a network of arms dealers in the area, the sanctioned sales of arms to certain countries facilitated by a group of FBI agents supervising the activities of those engaged in the negotiations. Both Parks and Breaux are involved in the network, the older Breaux more deeply connected to the major players in a so-called Buyer’s Club. But murder trumps arms sales, even in post-Katrina New Orleans. The determined efforts of Baybee and St. James to learn the identity of the killer will not go unnoticed.
Most of the action is fueled by Cliff’s inability to make sense of a playing field that includes high-stakes bidders in a lucrative market, a group of interested parties from China, Russia and other countries anxious to purchase both superior weaponry and the cutting-edge technology of sophisticated destruction. St. James is unclear whether he is being followed by outside entities or agents of his own government, necessitating the use of his gadgets to spy on the activities of the others—especially when two separate hit teams seek to remove him from the investigation.
Cliff’s relationship with Detective Baybee is based on an unconsummated romance. She controls the degree of intimacy, which remains restricted, putting St. James at risk for the seductive charms of FBI Agent Harding and even a former flirtation, current CIA area chief Twee Sui. None of this makes any part of the investigation easier for St. James, who grows weary of the cynical cat-and-mouse game employed by the Buyer’s Club and the rising count of dead bodies left in the wake of a killer radically cleaning house before his secret is revealed. St. James is especially angry that these wealthy arms merchants should take advantage of New Orleans’ devastation to hide their machinations.
The cast of characters is vast and deadly, from NASA employees on the take to government-sanctioned sales of arms by retired generals without the public’s knowledge—weapons developed with taxpayer dollars. There’s lots to be angry about in a premise that suggests a desperate governmental attempt to make money, but Kovacs keeps to the script, reining in the politics in favor of the particulars. A series of attacks on St. James leave him battle-scarred but undaunted, unsure of whom to trust save Detective Baybee, facing a mélange of private agendas by savvy local merchants looking to make a profit off the books. The extra-agency shenanigans are disturbing and probably not far from reality. No doubt St. James will return for another adventure, this investigator with the soul of a Renaissance man, the skills of a killer and the morality of a patriot.