When a biker buddy hires him to find his birth mother, Sughrue takes the case, only to find himself ensnared in a web of drugs, sex, drugs, likes, drugs, murder, and a baby named Lester. Sughrue puts together a band of his misfit war buddies and goes on the hunt. But every damn person he talks to is lying to him...
If Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson were able to mate successfully, their offspring would be a lot like James Crumley. His books read like Dr. Gonzo pretending to be Philip Marlowe, drug-filled road trips where nothing is as it seems.
Like a lot of PI novels, the case seemed simple at first. However, when a biker's mom happens to be the wife of an energy tycoon and Mexican drug runners are also after her, things get complicated in a hurry.
I found the characters in The Mexican Tree Duck to be much more likeable than the ones in The Last Good Kiss. Jimmy, the hotheaded former postal worker, and Frank, the black/Mexican/Samoan cop dying of cancer, and even Wynona, were much more likeable than the characters from the first book. The Dahlgren twins were a hoot and I hope they make further appearances. I also found myself getting attached to baby Lester, even though everyone connected to him was more full of shit than one of Lester's dirty diapers.
I find C.W. Sughrue to be a very compelling lead character, full of flaws but still with some redeeming qualities. If Philip Marlowe is a shop-soiled Galahad, Sughrue's like Lancelot after he fled Camelot and went wild trying to forget about his feelings for Guinevere with drink and violence (see, I read more than just detective books). It's a shame Crumley only wrote a few books starring him.
The plot was a lot more complex than I ever thought it would be, with Norman, Joe Don, Sarita, and Wynona being who they were. Much like Chandler's books, Sughrue spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell was going on. His writing also shows a Chandler influence in the similes.
The Mexican Tree Duck of the title barely makes an appearance but is pretty memorable when it does. I wish I had a replica to put on my bookcase.
After much deliberation, I'm giving this a high 4. I liked it more than the Last Good Kiss but not enough for five stars.