I spent a couple weeks reading BLOOD'S A ROVER by James Ellroy. I am not likely to read a denser book until Mr. Ellroy's next work. I turned to Mark Arsenault's LOOT THE MOON as a palate cleanser more than anything else. LOOT THE MOON is Mr. Arsenault's fourth book and second in the Billy Povich series after GRAVERWRITTER. I had no expectations to the extent that the author is unknown to me.
LOOT THE MOON turns out to be a pretty breezy read with some nice dark turns here and there. Billy Povich is on the Obit desk. He used to be an investigative journalist, but a gambling addiction put an end to that. His Dad is at the end of his rope with his dialysis treatments, and his son is dealing with the heavy baggage of losing his mother. Billy is asked by his lawyer friend, Martin, to investigate the murder of a Judge. Everyone thinks the murder was the unfortunate consequence of a robbery gone seriously wrong. Martin thinks someone paid somebody to kill the Judge, and soon Billy agrees.
What does work here is the nice interplay between Billy and his family and the lose collection of criminals he runs up against in trying to figure out who killed the Judge. Mr. Arsenault writes Billy as a serious minded man-child who just needs to be pushed into to growing up that last little bit. Always using humor to deflect a lot of his personal and professional troubles, Billy is a lot of fun to be around. But Billy has problems. His Dad, his son, his own personal life have left him with very few positives. You would like to say that Billy has his head above water more often than not, but make no mistake Billy is slowly drowning. Mr. Arsenault does a very fine job of drawing real and compelling characters.
What works less well is the 'mystery' to who killed the judge. The 'who-done-it' aspect of the book I felt was pretty obvious. Nothing really wrong about that, because a lot of the time it is about the journey, right? But disappointingly once we get to the denouement it was lacking in dramatic heft of any kind, and it was a let down for what is a really good read. This aside LOOT THE MOON is a book with a lot of heart. Its hard not to root for a loveable screw up like Billy Povich. Here is hoping he gets a few more books to figure it out.