Melissa Nadisky has run out on her poet husband and young daughter. The child’s grandfather, a powerful businessman with political connections, snatches the child just as PI Thomas Black arrives to investigate the mother’s disappearance at the behest of his law student lodger. Not long after his house is turned over and his lodger attacked. As Black starts to hunt for Nadisky, key witnesses start to die in mysterious circumstances. Undeterred he ploughs on with his investigation, aware that someone is prepared to kill to stop whatever has frightened Nadisky underground from being revealed.
As PI stories go, The Rainy City is pretty good. Black is hewn from wherever PI characters are cookie-cut and some of the characters are a little stereotypical, but the writing is expressive and tight, the plot has the right amount of twists and turns, it clips along at a jaunty pace, with plenty of action and realistic dialogue (though occasionally it becomes a little wooden), and there is a nice blend of characters. The end was no great surprise, but then few are, although Emerson does a nice job of maintaining tension to the final few pages. I have no idea why the cover shows a sinister man wearing a clown’s mask. Black's lodger does dress up as a clown at one point, but she’s a beautiful young woman. The book kept me entertained on the two flights between Dallas and Seattle, thus performing its job admirably. The Rainy City is the first in a series of nine Black books and if they improve as they go along, then this is a good starting point.