This is my first dive into Mark S. Bacon’s Nostalgia City Mysteries, and it was a worthwhile read. The author oddly chose not to identify the protagonist, Lyle, as a former cop, now working as a cab driver in the Nostalgia City theme park – and occasionally doing investigation work for the park’s owner – until a few chapters into the book. This was slightly annoying, but once Lyle’s identity and a little backstory was filled in, I had no problem reading this as a stand-alone story without reading the earlier series installments.
The mystery begins when Lyle picks up two fares in his cab – three suspicious characters and then a tipsy redhead who pukes in the back seat. One of them left a severed human finger on the floormat. The story then focuses on the disappearance of a software developer, who has been working on some revolutionary ride technology. Lyle is tasked with finding him. Meanwhile, a movie production is shooting on the theme park grounds and one of the actors lands dead at the bottom of a nearby canyon. Suicide? Or murder? And how is that connected to the missing developer? These are the threads that Lyle and his girlfriend and sometime sleuth, Kate, try to unravel.
The first half of the book moves along a bit slowly, with few indications of how the various threads are related. There are several blind alleys to be traversed, which could have been omitted or streamlined. This filler doesn’t really add any suspense to the story, and makes you wonder where the author is going. Eventually, when the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place in the last quarter of the story, the pace picks up substantially and the roller coaster starts to be worth the long wait. I correctly figured out the two biggest pieces to the mystery puzzle, but reading through the details to the exciting conclusion was still fun and some of the small bits were unexpected. There was a pretty significant plot hole at the very end, but not hard to overlook in the final sequence.
The book is generally well-written, with brilliant details and descriptions and a healthy dose of humor. I would have liked a little more subplot about the Lyle/Kate romance, but the author gave me just enough to care about them and how their relationship will develop in future books.
This is a complex plot with enough twists to keep you guessing and a nice payoff in the end. There is peril and action, mostly in the last section, making this an enjoyable read that makes me want to go back now and read the earlier books in the series.