The Superman Project
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
With his marriage of a decade crashing, Bronx private investigator Chico Santana has moved into his small office. Obese eighteen year old janitor Pablo Sanchez and his mom Esther enter Chico’s office seeking his assistance. They want him to find a missing estranged Brooklyn couple, artist Gabby Gupta and her husband, Joey Valentin.
The police believe Joey probably killed Gabby before vanishing. Chico knew Joey as children, but his childhood friend left for the Pacific years ago. Pablo explains Joey went to The Superman Project (TSP) Island run by Gabby’s dad, Father Ravi who accuses Joey of murder. The mother and son client believe it is a frame and offer Chico a valuable Superman comic as payment to find out what happened to the Williamsburg couple and if she is dead who killed her. Chico assumes Pablo has sniffed too much cleaning fluid as the conspiracy theory seems inane. However, as he uncovers leads, he begins to reconsider his scorn of paranoid Pablo’s pathetic pabulum especially when someone murders Esther.
The latest Chico Santana investigative thriller (see Chinatown Angel) is a superb hard-boiled detective story starring a likable protagonist. The TSP charter seems like lighthearted foolishness by Peter Pan types, but soon proves dangerous and nasty by Captain Hook types. Filled with twists and a great final spin, fans will enjoy A. E. Roman’s tour of the boroughs as The Superman Project merges the South Bronx with Nietzsche, Hinduism, and DC comic mythos inside a strong urban noir