The story begins with private detective C.W. Sughrue tracking down poet and author Abraham Trahearne, who has taken off on a drinking binge. Just as Trahearne is found and run to ground in a California bar, the owner of the bar asks Sughrue if he could investigate the disappearance of her daughter. Problem is, the girl, one Betty Sue Flowers, went missing 10 years ago and finding her drifts into the realm of impossibility. Nevertheless, Sughrue agrees to do what he can.
James Crumley presents us with another private detective hailing from Meriwether, Montana. C. W. Sughrue is a very interesting character. While he's not without his faults, he drinks, chases women and breaks the law when he has to, he is a morally strong character who is determined to see that justice prevails above all else. He finds himself in an unusual position in dealing with Trahearne. Trahearne seems to live peacefully with his wife, ex-wife and mother, but feels the need to occasionally get away and go on a bender every so often. He befriends Sughrue and they do a bit of travelling together, but Sughrue keeps getting the feeling that something's not quite right, but can't quite put his finger on what it is.
There's quite a bit more to this story than first meets the eye, and the key to it has to do with Sughrue's feelings towards Trahearne and his family. Sughrue's uneasiness rubbed off to me a little and I was beginning to wonder what I was supposed to be picking up. It was a clever device that drew me into the story, ensuring that I read every word closely, looking for a clue that would tip me off.
This is an easy-going hardboiled story, if there can be such a thing. Sughrue is a very laid back character and seems to have all the time in the world to look for his missing persons, enjoying the journey as much as possible. This made it feel as though I was cruising through the book along with him until all the pieces of the jigsaw fell together towards the end.