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Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite
Think of The Maltese Falcon in the milieu of 21st century Silicon Valley, and you’ll end up with something like Bad Karma (A Jack McCoul Caper) by Dwight Holing. Jack McCoul, the main character in Holing’s series of mysteries, is a former high-end burglar and con man who has gone straight and is the head of a tech start-up. Like most tech entrepreneurs, he needs money, but a venture capitalist turns down his new app that would help international travelers find less-than-wholesome pleasures. Soon afterward, the venture capitalist is murdered, and the investigating detective, who has been Jack’s nemesis since the two of them went to Catholic school together, eyes Jack as a possible suspect. Jack has to clear his name, so he starts his own unofficial investigation. Along the way, he is targeted by two unfriendly thugs who represent an unknown party that wants the rights to Jack’s new app. A hard-boiled detective novel wouldn’t be complete without a colorful cast of characters, and Bad Karma certainly has them – from an old-time associate of Jack’s who loves to steal and chase the ladies to a stuttering sports fan who has the knack for finding out any information on the street.
Dwight Holing is an excellent writer, using active words and not boring us with a lot of excess phrases. The characters are colorful and realistic, although the average person will probably never run into such people in his lifetime. He does a good job of depicting the people of Silicon Valley, from the successful ones who have huge mansions to the hungry entrepreneurs and programmers who want to make it big. He’s equally adept at portraying San Francisco’s Mission District, a formerly working-class, Chicano area that’s rapidly gentrifying. All in all, Bad Karma made me want to read more Jack McCoul novels by Holing. One thing is sure: if you spend most of your life lying and stealing, you’re sure to have ... Bad Karma!