The Bottom Line: Witty Sleuth Kate McCall returns to solve her father’s murder in this supremely satisfying and painfully funny mystery.
When readers first fell in love with Kate McCall, Rich Leder’s Workman’s Complication introduced us to the clever way-off-Broadway actress who walked dogs for a living. After her father’s brutal murder, she inherited his PI firm and reluctantly took over his cases. Gottiguard takes three cases (and three books) after his death. After a spree of nearly identical homicides indicates that a serial killer is at work, Kate is determined to find her father’s murderer.
Along the way, the 45-year-old PI is busy protecting Rick Gotti, a stand up comedian accused of murdering a fellow comedian who had blatantly stolen his material. Both Kate and Rick also remain involved in entertainment – Kate on a martial arts production called Kung Fu Fu, and Rick on a sitcom. Both are put on notice when Rick survives an attack by a masked assailant they wrongly assume is using a prop gun with blanks. As one of Leder’s character’s hilariously proclaims, “That’s showbiz.”
As Kate’s hunt for the serial killer progresses, so too does the book’s funny bone. Leder has always had a gift for balancing suspense with humor that serve his characters and the story well, but the jokes in Gottiguard land fast enough to send even the most somber readers into an uncontrollable fit. Many come in the form of puns that Leder slips into prose (“washing Warren’s fleet”), while others are long bits of rising hilarity, such as when Kate listens in escalating repugnance as two characters shamelessly flirt with each other. If laughter is the best medicine, then Gottiguard will cure plenty of ailments.
Meanwhile, the suspense surrounding Kate’s pursuit of the killers proves unputdownable on its own terms. At 469 pages, Leder loads the plot with twists that make Kate earn every clue and lead. But amidst all the criminal hi-jinx, Kate’s relationships with friends and love interests alike are genuinely sweet, which in an age of caustic humor, is supremely refreshing. If this is indeed the “final” Kate McCall crime caper, as Leder suggests, Kate goes out with a bang is what may be the best of the McCall books. But let’s hope that Leder is actually the Gene Simmons of the writing world, and much like KISS’ endless string of “final” tours, Kate will always be solving her “last” case.