When an ecology professor is murdered, Riley—an exterminator, whose business extends to two-legged pests—is drawn into the case by the wealthy and fiery widow. Tracking vermin, from filth flies to drug dealers, across the bucolic lawns of the University of California-Berkeley campus and through the gritty alleys of San Francisco, Riley applies his darkly poetic brand of poisoned justice. Set in the 1970s, Poisoned Justice features a hard-bitten, soft-hearted detective-turned-exterminator who uses his knowledge of insectan and human nature to find a killer.
In the Riley the Exterminator Mysteries, Riley is a life-smart character who wrestles with the difference between vengeance and justice. The stories can be read for sheer pleasure, but for readers who want to ponder a bit, there is a richness that respects their intellect. Lockwood writes for smart, curious people who appreciate the art of noir—the sort of person who enjoys the ways in which mystery writing can be bent to explore our (in)humanity and the kind of reader who wonders how we should deal with evil.
The books are an unusual, even idiosyncratic (entomologists being a bit eccentric), view into a world that few people understand but many readers encounter. The ‘inside’ of extermination—working among deadly poisons, crawling masses of vermin, and fearful clients—is not unlike the dark side of society that social workers, judges and police see on a daily basis. Seeing the world through the eyes of an exterminator provides a highly unconventional perspective on nature and humans. But insects are the most abundant animals on the planet, and how they enter our lives, the metaphors they foster, and the lessons they offer provide powerful insights. The bottom-line is the existential challenge that we must kill so that we may live. The moral issue is whether we kill well. The Rile the Exterminator Mysteries wrestle honestly and provocatively with the radical, twisted world which most people outsource from their lives—the world of pests and poisons.