This thriller is an unexpected surprise, with a PI whose past comes back to haunt his life in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach neighborhood. Dante Mancuso, identifiable by his remarkably large nose, has walked away from what we can assume is a covert intelligence agency seeking a simpler, more predictable life as an employee of Cicero’s Investigations.
What Mancuso realizes to his dismay, is that no one walks away from the “Company” - too many loose ends left untied. Sorting through the sad belongings in his deceased father’s home with on-and-off-again lover Marilyn Visconti, a local real estate agent, Dante is struck by the fact that he has never been able to let go of their long-term relationship, even though she is currently being pursued by another, a genuine, wealthy man who is ready to make a commitment.
Dante receives the dreaded call that puts an end to life as he has imagined it with Marilyn, a demand for an obscure document from his former days in espionage, Ru Shen’s “Diary of an Unknown Stowaway.” It seems this diary, which may currently be in circulation in the Wu family compound in Chinatown, represents a threat to the organization, names and addresses best left private.
Dante’s task is to recover the diary, or those he loves - namely Marilyn - will come to harm. Once the threat is made, the plot moves ahead quickly, following a series of murders by garroting, a clear signal to Dante exactly who his is dealing with. Now he is caught in a carefully baited trap, his cousin and partner at Cicero’s direct targets, old habits returning by necessity.
Through the streets of Chinatown to Marilyn’s apartment, Dante knows he is being followed as the bodies continue to drop. Circumstances belie coincidence, and his feelings for Marilyn must be denied to save her life. Good cops and bad cops, anonymous hotels, hookers, drugs and brutality are all part of a violent mix that ends as spectacularly as it begins. A short noir thriller with all the bells and whistles, Naked Moon is a surprising treat.