Something just clicked between mysterious FBI agent Desiree Depardieu and one Chick Corbett of Gerlach, Nevada. The twenty-something pair who traipsed through Doug Keister’s first novel, “Desiree” (2010) have arrived at a new venue in “Bullets, Baubles and Bones: A Chick Corbett Mystery” ($12.99 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle).
This time Chick and Desiree are supporting cast for Chick’s best friend, the six-foot-seven Tom Twotrees, the brilliantly offbeat Mensa-member whose “grandfather was a Navajo code-talker during World War II” and who “did Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded with the aid of tiny Braille dots on the faces of the cubes.” Tom’s expertise is needed to make sense of certain strange objects that may lead to the famed but elusive Russian Crown Jewels.
In the Preface we learn that Twotrees contacted Chico writer Doug Keister, whose book on cemeteries in Los Angeles plays a decisive part in the story, to write the tale mostly from Chick’s point of view. It’s a true (though convoluted) story but, uh, a few details had to be altered so Tom and Chick don’t end up in jail.
What unfolds is some serious bad-guy business containing a host of characters (like out of a Russian novel) with names like Anatoly Romanov, Natasha Popov, Vasily Egorov; there’s also “leggy Shasta Gudlae,” “Laura Borealis,” dudes named Edgar and Hamlin Slough, and “Chester Orland” (Chet for short). I mean, these names are all over the map.
Anyway, the novel tells how the Crown Jewels, collected over three centuries by the Romanov family, were smuggled out of Russia as the Bolsheviks took power. Clues to their whereabouts ended up in a casket in 1993, during a ceremony at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Santa Monica symbolically laying to rest Def Jam Records. This really happened. Or some of it did.
Tom’s expertise proves hair-raising, there are characters who are not what they seem, Desiree accepts Chick’s proposal, Russian patience is rewarded, and loose ends are tied together nicely at the end, thanks of course to a big rock and the LaBrea Tar Pits. Did I say convoluted?