Near Burlington, Vermont, not far from the Canadian border, a retired school teacher walking her dog along the shore of Lake Champlain has made an unwelcome discovery. It is the body of a woman, partly frozen in the ice. The police set about their work, made easier by a business card found in her clothing: it belongs to Hack Loomis, a local PI.
Like many in his profession, Loomis is scratching out a precarious living from too few clients. He lives in an Airstream trailer on the building site of what was to be a home with his ex- wife. His business partner – and recent lover – Connie Noble, adds both a page to his professional book and a much-needed dimension to his personal life.
Linda Leith Publishing
While the police focus on the victim, Loomis is concerned about Belle. He tries to contact her through her employer, but she hasn’t appeared for work. Once Belle’s sister becomes involved, and worried, Connie offers up their PI services pro bono – much to Loomis’s dismay.
It doesn’t take long for them to discover that Belle was interested in something called the Kentauran Foundation. Founded by psychiatrist Dr. Thaddeus Kellerman, it counts among its members a woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens as well as a former astronaut who claims to have witnessed a UFO and to have been abducted while on a NASA mission in 1984. Kellerman himself claims to be in contact with “Rigilians,” aliens who believe the Earth is on the verge of collapse and want to take earthlings to another planet. With a membership of nearly three hundred people, the Foundation is preparing to construct a powerful radio transmitter in Costa Rica to contact the aliens and arrange for the voyage. Had Belle somehow infiltrated the group, discovered a nasty secret, and perhaps paid with her life? And what of the body in the lake?
Author Michael Blair weaves a tale of duplicity that would do a professional con artist proud. The reader warms to Hack Loomis immediately. He is both everyman and the underdog, surrounded by adversaries, but never conceding defeat. If I have a reservation about Loomis, it is his personal hygiene: bathing only twice a week doesn’t endear him to readers. On the other hand, Loomis’s relationship with sidekick Connie Noble is nicely nuanced, as she is clearly taken by him but realistic about their chances of making their business relationship succeed. The other characters are well drawn, and the dialogue is spot on, tailored to each individual, whether it be the arrogant head of the law firm where Belle Ryerson worked or her trusting but naïve sister Hazel.
Deftly tapping into the commonly held belief that intelligent life must exist on other planets, Blair fashions a convincing tale of gullibility and greed, leavening his story with his trademark sly humour. The result is True Believers, an entertaining excursion into the realm of those who desperately latch on to what they want to believe. mRb