The Big Exit
Carnoy writes a thriller as sophisticated as the banter of his protagonist, Richie Forman, who currently makes ends meet through gigs as a Sinatra impersonator. After doing hard time for vehicular manslaughter (he insists he wasn’t driving), Richie is tapped by Menlo Park detectives in Northern California when Mark McGregor is found hacked to death in his home. Motive: McGregor was the other man in the car with Forman the night of the accident. Unfortunately, a lighter is recovered at the scene of the crime, a Sinatra artifact carried by Richie in his singer persona.
That McGregor has married the fiancé who couldn’t wait for Forman to get out of jail adds extra flavor to a mystery with counter-currents running just below the surface of the murder investigation. Assembling a cast of familiars from the manslaughter case—from attorney Carolyn Dupoy to Detective Hank Madden, the victim and his wife, Beth Hill—Richie’s infamy infects the current situation with the taint of past association. His recent participation in the Exoneration Foundation (dedicated to overturning unfair convictions) adds another touch of irony to a tale already burdened by too many coincidences.
Changing perspectives from Forman’s to Dupoy’s to Madden’s and new-widow Beth Hill’s, Carnoy fleshes out an intriguing thriller, updated by real time dot-com reporting by Tom Bender, scathing comments on Twitter and other social media, the result a hard core mystery in a San Francisco setting, Forman assailed by an unresolved past that resurfaces with McGregor’s death. The prose is slyly seductive, intelligent, wry and filled with interesting personalities, Richie Forman a most engaging protagonist. Carnoy’s grasp of the female psyche is insightful and accurate, giving women characters equal weight in the brain game and not relegating them to the usual second string in the mystery genre.
Unexpected characters drive the story, the author framing his whodunit from differing perspectives. Strange bedfellows push Forman to take a more active role in his own defense with a big-name lawyer who presents a real challenge for Carolyn Dupoy. Without being overwrought, Carnoy achieves that difficult balance between reality and opportunity, the get-rich-quick mentality of the tech market and the oversized egos it spawns in the digital age where everyone’s a reporter but no one’s a journalist and public perception is more important than fact. Throw in real detective work and complicated personalities, and Carnoy’s formula is near perfect. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride couldn’t have a more diverse set of players—all of whom work remarkably well together in bringing the case to its shocking conclusion.