Cover image for A ticket to die for
A ticket to die for
Walker, David J., 1939-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's, 1998.
Physical Description:
vii, 260 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



David J. Walker's series featuring P. I. Mal Foley won him an Edgar nomination for best first novel. Now Walker applies his sharp, deliciously tense writing style to a new detecting team. The wife is the P. I. and the husband is a lawyer who helps out when needed. Both their wits and their reliance on each other are tested when they must look into a Mafia-connected murder of a young woman.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With the panache of Nick and Nora, PI Kirsten Dugan and her lawyer-husband (known simply as "Dugan") take their place on the roster of chic, cosmopolitan husband-and-wife detecting teams. The two find themselves embroiled in one tough case when their friend, soon-to-be-disbarred lawyer Larry Candle, asks for their help defending the owners of a pornographic bookstore in an anti-obscenity case. But when the bookstore's cashier is shot dead, and Dugan and Kirsten see the killers running from the store, the case suddenly becomes more complicated. Through a messy investigation of Mafiosos, exotic dancers, crooked lawyers, pedophiles, drug smuggling, and money laundering, the pair manage to keep their keen sense of humor and deep affection for each other intact. Also the creator of PI Mal Foley, Walker offers up an eye-popping plot, wacky characters, oddball humor, and, best of all, the delightful Dugans in a story that's fresh, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)0312193459Emily Melton

Publisher's Weekly Review

A priest-turned-lawyer, Walker has written three gritty Mal Foley mysteries, including Half the Truth (1996). He now brings his crisp dialogue, a fine comic edge and a cast of sharply drawn supporting characters to a new series featuring a spirited wife-and-husband sleuthing team based in Chicago. The husband is Dugan, a police academy dropout who's now a lawyer specializing in personal injury cases; the wife is Kirsten, a law-school dropout and former cop who's now a PI. Kirsten asks Dugan to accompany her to Cousin Freddy's, an adult bookstore where she hopes to track down a witness. Instead, the pair are near witnesses to a killing that may be a Mafia hit and that marks them for similar attention. A kidnapped exotic dancer, two further murders, a pair of vicious thugs and a slew of lawyers (a cheap shyster, a powerful deal-maker, a couple of militant anti-pornography crusaders) are among the highlights that make this adventure complex and memorable. The spotlight, however, belongs to the leads, whose interplay is wry but not cutesy, and will have readers looking forward to the next in the series. Agent, Jane Jordan Browne. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One     A deal's a deal, darling. Like it or not."     That surprised Dugan. The darling part. She'd never called him that before. Did she think it sounded like--what was her name? Jennifer?--on those old "Hart to Hart" reruns? At any rate, darling sounded out-of-date, somehow.     ". . . and don't give me any of that lawyer stuff, either," Kirsten was saying. "Mutual breach or anticipatory mistake or some--"     "You've got em backward," he interrupted. "But beyond that, I don't know any more about contract defenses than you do. Haven't seen one since the bar exam." He shifted his bulky frame around. The Celica was her car, and the bucket seats seemed to shrink a little more every time he rode in it. "Actually," he said, "what I should plead is insanity."     "Oh no. You were in your right mind, all right. You wanted things your way, so we made a deal. Now you're trying to weasel out of it."     A gust of wind sent rain slashing across the windows and slamming down on the roof of the car, but she didn't seem to mind the weather. He knew she was enjoying herself--kidding him along to pass the time. He watched her reach across the top of the steering wheel and wipe condensation from the windshield with the back of her hand. Together they peered out across the parking lot. A couple of construction workers in heavy boots and parkas, bundled up against the cold November rain, slouched toward Cousin Freddy's.     "I think it'll be kind of interesting, actually," Kirsten said.     "Interesting, huh? You know, your dad told me once he always thought you should have been a boy--scraped knees, broken bones, always getting into trouble you should have stayed out of. `A typical boy,' were your dad's words."     "And a typically male comment," she said. "My father was a sweet, kind man and I loved him. But he was an old-fashioned chauvinist, a sexist, and--"     "--and a tough, smart homicide investigator. And he told me to be careful, because you were way too much like him."     "That's something else I hate about men: always talking to each other behind your back."     "Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand, the deal wasn't that we'd be partners or something. The deal was . . ." Actually, he wasn't sure what the deal was.     "The deal was," she said, "I wouldn't take that great opportunity out west. Instead, I'd stay in the city and open my own agency."     Out west meant near Aurora, forty miles west of Chicago's Loop. That great opportunity had been a chance to be director of campus security at some community college Dugan had never heard of before, but that was growing like crazy, gobbling up the corn and soybean fields that surrounded it. He'd been against her taking the job. She was too damn conscientious, and she'd have been out there night and day.     "So I passed up the job," she was saying, "and--"     "Wait a second. You didn't even want that job!"     She reached over and patted his knee. "But you didn't know that when we made the deal, darling. What you knew was, I couldn't stand chasing shoplifters around the Magnificent Mile any longer. So we made a deal. I'd open my own agency. You'd spend less than your usual thirteen hours or whatever at your office, and take some time to help me out once in a while."     "I still don't remember the helping out' part."     "That's what you said. So . . . here you are, darling, helping me out. A deal's a deal."     "What's with this darling stuff?."     "I don't know. It just sounds . . . appropriate somehow." He watched her open the purse in her lap and pull out a little notebook. "The woman's name is Lynne Bulasik. She's a witness to a conversation between your friend Larry Candle and his client. I need to get her signed statement. And in a place like this, I just feel more . . . comfortable with you along. It won't take twenty minutes." She stuffed the notebook back into her purse and snapped it closed.     "My God, Kirsten," he said, staring at her.     "What?"     "There's a gun in your purse."     "Oh, that. It's the same Colt .380 I've had for years. I'm licensed, Dugan, you know that. Actually, you could be, too, since you're my employee."     Another surprise. "Your employee?"     "Just a technicality. I don't expect you to actually work for me. Anyway, I don't like to leave the gun in the car. It might get stolen or something." She patted his knee again.     The rain eased up and he rolled down his window to stare out at the Hi-Hope Shopping Center. It was a desolate little strip mall, on Ridgeview Road southwest of the city. A tiny copy shop with a big sign that said LOST OUR LEASE, Ray-Ann's Beauty Salon, three more vacant stores, and finally, at the end in an unattached building, Cousin Freddy's. It was just eight-thirty in the morning and the only other car in the lot had already been there when they arrived. The two customers they'd seen go inside must have arrived on foot, or else they came from a cement truck that was parked just short of the parking lot on the shoulder of Ridgeview.     It was an unincorporated, mostly undeveloped area. Ridgeview was four lanes there, and the traffic was heavy in both directions--school buses, commuters, delivery trucks, all hurrying back and forth through the gray morning, spraying out flat, wide sheets of dirty rainwater from the pavement.     Kirsten pulled the rearview mirror her way and ran some lipstick over her lips. She pursed them out, then in, then darted the tip of her tongue around, as though testing the flavor. It was one of a thousand things he'd seen her do a thousand times, and he never got tired of watching her.     She gave a last little dart of the tongue--not unconsciously, he thought--and pushed the mirror back into position. "I was hoping there wouldn't be any customers this early in the morning," she said. "But we might as well go in while the rain's eased up." Just then, the two construction workers came out of the store. "Oh good," Kirsten added.     One of the men had a brown paper package tucked under his arm. Both their heads turned in surprise as Dugan and Kirsten simultaneously opened the two doors of the Celica. The one with the package, a tall, heavyset man, hesitated, then turned his face aside. Dugan didn't blame him. He wasn't thrilled to be seen at a place like Cousin Freddy's either, even by strangers. The man's companion, another linebacker type, tugged at his arm and they hustled off.     Kirsten and Dugan picked their way carefully across the lot, seeking out high spots in the two-inch-deep river of rainwater that streamed over the asphalt.     "Incidentally," he said, "Larry Candle is not my friend. From all accounts, he's an ambulance chaser, and a low-life schlock who wouldn't know the courthouse from a cathouse. He's--"     "Well, he said you gave him my number, and he's my client. And as for ambulance chasing, what about your own little team?"     "That's different. And it's not a team . Those are cops that were mostly friends of my dad's. They'd been sending him accident cases long before I took over the firm and . . . well . . ."     But by then they'd reached the store. The plate glass window was painted over, dark blue, with red, squared-off letters: COUSIN FREDDY'S ADULT BOOKS, MAGAZINES, VIDEOS, CD-ROMS, LATEX NOVELTIES OPEN 24 HOURS TO SERVE SOPHISTICATED TASTES The glass door was also dark blue, except for a section where the paint had been scraped off, and a sign taped to the inside of the glass announced: LADIES ALWAYS WELCOME See Our New Selection of Feminine Erotica "See?" Dugan said, pulling open the door and following Kirsten through. "You didn't need me along at all."     To their left were the videotape, CD-ROM, and "novelty" sections, and in the rear wall was a wide doorway, draped with red velvet and holding a set of swinging doors. A sign beside the doors said FANTASY SALONS. To their right were several rows of book display shelves, surrounded by hundreds of magazines spread out on racks around three walls in carefully organized groupings for nearly every imaginable sexual proclivity. What was spread out on the magazine covers, Dugan thought, made Hustler and Penthouse look . . . well . . . middle-American or something.     Straight ahead, about fifteen feet back from the door, was a raised platform and a counter where the cashier could sit and keep an eye on the store. A sign fixed to the front of the counter faced the door and demanded a nonrefundable five-dollar deposit from everyone who entered, "to be credited against any purchase in excess of that amount."     The cashier had to be Lynne Bulasik, and Dugan guessed her to be maybe thirty years old. She was ordinary-looking, a little overweight, with straight brown hair pulled back like the farmer's wife's in American Gothic . She sat slouched in a swivel chair behind the counter, wearing a light blue dress. She was very pale-skinned, with no makeup, and rimless round eyeglasses clung precariously to the tip of her nose.     Her head was cocked at an angle. It was an odd, painful-looking, quizzical tilt, and one she couldn't have held very long--except that someone had broken her neck.