I tried mightily to get into this because I considered Moore’s The Poison Artist to be a five-star read, but it wasn’t worth the effort. It made no sense. As ex-FBI who worked right there in federal plaza where this takes place I’m perhaps overly sensitive to jurisdictional issues, but this one was egregious. A San Francisco police detective is interrupted in a night investigation in Monterey to be flown by helicopter in the middle of the night to SF City Hall over a supposed blackmail letter that had come to the mayor. C’mon, really? The letter arrives during business hours and they wait until the middle of the night and then fly this guy in a helicopter, which lands in front of City Hall in order to be discreet?
Then it seems the FBI is in charge of the case. Why? The letter suggests that four photographs will be made public. They show a woman in apparent distress and she is handcuffed to a bed in one of them. But there is no crime described in the letter or shown in the photos. So far as the photos show, it’s a posed actress. The mayor isn’t in the photos and claims not to know anything about her or the photos. So it’s not even blackmail since there is no threat to reveal a crime. The mayor would have to admit some involvement with a crime or something embarrassing that could ruin him for that to be a crime. Not only that, but it’s only FBI jurisdiction if the crime that will be revealed is a federal crime. If the mayor admitted that he had transported the woman interstate during a kidnapping, or sent child porn in the U.S. mail, for example, and explained that he believed this letter was threatening to reveal that, then you would have FBI jurisdiction, but the FBI would be more interested in the mayor’s crimes than in the blackmail. Use of the mail to send a threat is a federal violation, but that’s Postal Inspectors, not FBI, jurisdiction and this isn’t really a threat. Publicizing a picture of a handcuffed woman isn’t a crime or harmful to the mayor, at least that’s not indicated at this point in the story. I see similar pictures all the time on book covers, movie trailers, and the like. No crime there.
Then the FBI agent tells the detective that identifying the woman is a local matter. What?! If there were FBI jurisdiction, they would take over the whole thing, I guarantee you that. Not only that, but identifying the woman is probably the one thing the FBI would be better at than the SFPD, so that makes no sense. Meanwhile the case the detective was working on when he was yanked off it takes a bizarre and unlikely turn. The whole plot became farcical, so I gave up at that point. Maybe zombies will show up next. Life is too short to waste on stuff like this.