Vincent H. O’Neil‘s inimitable beach bum/amateur sleuth Frank Cole is back in Reduced Circumstances (2007), his followup to Murder in Exile (2006). Things have quieted down for Frank since solving the Eddie Gonzalez case in Exile. In fact as fast as fact checking is concerned, business is just about non-existent.
Although Frank’s peculiar bankruptcy case prevents him from earning too much money, he does still have living expenses. So, to deal with the light times as a fact checker, Frank finds himself working as a night dispatcher for the Midnight Taxi Service near his home in Exile, Florida.
The taxi stand is where Frank first hears about the kid. The young man was seen hailing a Midnight cab near a drug bust the night before–interesting but not exactly big news. Of course that’s before a parade of visitors drop by the cab stand trying to find the kid and the MIA driver who picked him up the night before. First there’s the private investigator from Atlanta, then the possible bounty hunters from Mobile, and finally the kid’s girlfriend–a blond femme fatale of sorts who never seems to leave a fingerprint in her wake.
Suddenly Frank finds himself a person of interest on all side of the investigation despite having little in the way of information to share. Urged on by equal parts curiosity and necessity, Frank begins to investigate the kid and his mysterious disappearance trying to figure out why exactly so many people want to find him. And who, if any of them, want to find him alive.
Murder in Exile was a lot of fun. Amazingly, and happily, this installment in the series is even more enjoyable. The narrative also provides ample yet brief recaps of Frank’s adventures in the first book for anyone who might be fuzzy on those early details. Reduced Circumstances is an interesting blend of character study and mystery. The elements for both are here and used well to create a breezy read that leaves readers with a satisfying investigation and more insight into Frank’s personality and life.
Because Frank comes to the world of investigation from a fact checker’s side of things, the novel also provides a unique look at the world of online research and a commentary on just how much information can be found online. O’Neil keeps these segments just the right length to stay interesting for the typical readers and any information professionals who should happen to pick up the book.
While the investigation wraps up nicely, the novel does still end with a slight cliff hanger that will leave readers eager for the next installment in the series Exile Trust (2008).