Trouble is afoot in Pflugerville, Texas. In Toxic Relationship by Richard Hacker, readers meet former cop, now private investigator, Nick Sibelius. NIck finds his interest peaked when he is hired to find a minister’s missing daughter and her boyfriend. When the boyfriend’s motorcycle is found alongside the property of Junior Pendleton, Nick is very suspicious about Junior’s involvement. People who are around Junior tend to have bad luck. For example, his father died in front of him while falling into a piece of farm equipment. Then there was a drunken transient that Junior shot because he was trespassing on his property. To top it off, he also shot a hot air balloon. Nope, things aren’t looking good, especially after a search of the property reveals no clues to the couple’s whereabouts.
Junior, who prefers to consider himself an environmental resource executive, rather than toxic waste dumper, is in cahoots with Barry Swenson. They have known each other since grade school when Barry was a booger eater. Currently an ex-dentist for less than honorable reasons, Neo-Nazi Barry is involved with toxic waste dumping and methamphetamine distribution. Involving Junior with his illegal activities has made Junior very paranoid about who sets foot on his property. In addition to kidnapping this couple because he thinks they are Feds, he also manages to be present when a former school chum drowns while fishing in his pond. The fact that the schoolmate couldn’t swim and was terrified into going into the pond because Junior threatened to shoot him, played a huge role in his death.
Nick’s investigation gets really interesting when the body gets found in the pond, and it appears that someone from his past is trying to kill him to get him off the case. Too much is happening at Junior’s. When a mysterious beautiful woman appears and claims to be an out of town reporter, Nick finds himself falling hard and fast for her. He also discovers that she doesn’t seem to be who she claims to be. As time starts running out for the couple and other people become endangered, Nick quickly tries to wrap up the case. He has to resort to some unusual methods to help keep himself alive and to protect those that he cares about. As answers come to light, he also has to decide how to proceed in handling the case with discretion and some secrecy. Fortunately, he has his cross dressing secretary to help him.
I really enjoyed reading Toxic Relationship. Many times I found myself getting strange looks because I was laughing out loud. The author has managed to create a unique group of people from this little town that seem to be able to bumble their way through their crimes. Battling demons from his past, Nick has to keep on his toes to avoid becoming another one of their victims. Falling in love adds some spice to the story, especially because the woman involved has many secrets and her own demons to conquer.
Toxic Relationship by Richard Hacker is highly entertaining and sure to be enjoyed by fans of mysteries with humor. I highly recommend it and hope that there will be more stories to follow.