Troglodytes Review
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The year is 2005. 9/11 still resonates; the war in Iraq is in full swing. Private investigator Frank Johnson is broke, and the IRS is looking for him, so he accepts an assignment from a wealthy woman to locate her missing husband overseas. Armed with nothing but a passport and a bad head cold, Johnson arrives in Ankara, Turkey, where there’s no Kentucky bourbon or bluegrass music.

Almost immediately upon arrival, Johnson is mugged in his fleabag hotel. The Embassy is bombed. Then someone turns up dead in the hotel elevator, and Johnson finds himself a suspect. Meeting only resistance from the U.S. Embassy and the Turkish police, Johnson doesn’t know who he can trust—be it new acquaintances, old friends, or the ubiquitous cab drivers. Consistent with Johnson’s usual M.O., he bites off more than he can chew, and adventure, danger, and action ensue.

Author Ed Lynskey’s familiarity with and description of the locale lend Troglodytes a rich sense of place, from the busy Turkish marketplaces and the crowded city streets to Cappadocia and the creepy underground cities of the ancient troglodytes who once dwelled there.

Troglodytes is the fourth book in Lynskey’s Frank Johnson mystery series. If you haven’t read any of the previous books (The Dirt-Brown Derby, The Blue Cheer, Pelham Fell Here), though, don’t expect the hero to be Connery, Willis, Van Damme, or Segal. Johnson is just a guy who’s trying to pay his bills—not a superstar. Still, following Lynskey’s earlier novels, Johnson’s character stays true to form, his customary dry wit intact (“I tried to envision a missing persons search in Ankara. Put up flyers?”).

I enjoyed Troglodytes and its exotic setting, and I believe that fans of the series will, too. However, I was somewhat dismayed to see Johnson evolve into a world-weary, self-doubting protagonist who eventually leaves Turkey for home—disillusioned, disappointed, contemplative, and clearly disgusted with the war in Iraq. It left me thinking that if there’s another book after Troglodytes, it will be interesting to see where it takes Frank Johnson.

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