Private investigator John March's latest client is Nina Sachs, who wants him to look for her ex-husband, Gregory Danes, who hasn't been heard from in a while. She doesn't want the child support and alimony payments running out. Danes is a rich equity analyst, but troubled times on Wall Street have seen his credibility and career plummet. March's investigation eventually reveals that other people are looking for Danes as well, gradually making his work harder - and more dangerous. He must try and discover if something sinister has happened to Greg, and whether it was related to his family life, or the colleagues he worked with in the last days of his troubled career.
Notice how I used words like "eventually" and "gradually"? That's because this book is in no hurry to get anywhere. It's one of the most boring thrillers I've ever read. 200 pages in and March barely knows more than what he started with. The narrative basically consists of him tracking down anybody who might provide him with a clue, only for that person to respond with something along the lines of "f**k off, I don't want to talk to you". Over and over again. It was repetitive and unexciting. I imagine P.I. work is exactly like this, but it sure doesn't make for enthralling reading.
Another drawback is the description. Sure, you need to set the scene, but this one takes it to absolutely ridiculous proportions. Sometimes, if March has to wait five minutes to speak to somebody, he'll take a walk. We're then treated to minute detail about the street he walks down and what's in the shops he looks in, etc etc. Similarly, anytime he enters an office, every little thing is described, right down to the photos on the desk. Acceptable maybe if they're going to have relevance later, but that's certainly not the case here. The positive that came out of this was that I was able to skip up to two and three pages at a time - without missing a thing.
The slow-moving plot and the wordy writing style also serve to expose John March as a fairly unsympathetic character. He comes across as a self-involved, immature putz. The plot has several diversions involving his interactions with his family, which only serve to slow down an already almost-immobile plot, and paint him as being even more unlikeable. Nobody much likes spending time in his company, and hey - neither does the reader! His romance with neighbour Jane Lu is also a casualty of his badly-drawn character. I couldn't understand why she would put up with such a misery-guts. In the previous book, "Black Maps", there was detail about the murder of John's first wife, but it's only touched upon very lightly here, and I can barely remember a thing about the first book. So it doesn't quite justify him being a childish asshole all the time.
Plot revelations, when they do come, aren't terribly earth-shattering, and aren't enough to make trawling through this bore worth the effort.