Mark Coggins. Candy from Strangers (2006) 307 pp.
August Riordan, a jazz bass-playing San Francisco PI, is hired to find Caroline Stockwell, a pretty young art student, who has gone missing. Although he is initially reluctant to take the case—Caroline is the daughter of Quentin Stockwell, the East Palo Alto police lieutenant with whom Riordan tangled in The Immortal Game—Riordan agrees to look into her disappearance. He soon discovers that Caroline is leading a secret life as a “cam girl”—she and her friend, Monica Mapa, have put up a website called “Gothic Heaven and Hell” that includes seductive photographs of the girls and requests for admirers to send them gifts from Amazon.com. As he digs deeper into the case, with the help of transvestite computer expert Chris Duckworth, his list of suspects grows. Many of the men in Caroline’s life, including her psychologist, her advisor at school, and a phony guru in Berkeley, have visited the site and sent her anonymous presents. Riordan’s search takes him all over San Francisco (from South of Market to the Mission District to North Beach), Berkeley, and down to Union City.