The term surf noir was invented for, or perhaps coined by, California author Kem Nunn (Tapping the Source, Tijuana Straits). It refers to a genre of crime novels in which surfing is a central theme, or at least a strong sub-theme. Until recently, Nunn has been the genre's sole practitioner, but he faces a strong challenger in Jeff Shelby, who has just released his second novel, Wicked Break. The first in the series, Killer Swell, introduced surfer-turned-P.I. Noah Braddock and his wisecracking sidekick, Carter. (Let it be said that every good suspense novel should feature a wisecracking sidekick: Spenser has Hawk, Doc Ford has Tomlinson, Travis McGee had Meyer. All good wisecracking sidekicks should be loyal to a fault, strong as oxen and magnets to women. They should also have only one name; see above.) As Wicked Break opens, Braddock is much more attuned to surfing than to business, but there is a payment due on his Jeep, so he reluctantly accepts a missing persons case. Linc Pluto has disappeared, and folks on both sides of the law want to find him. Badly. Apparently, Linc was the go-between for two groups of unlikely bedfellows, a black L.A. street gang and a white supremacy organization; one needed guns and had money, vice versa for the other. Thing is, neither realized who they were doing business with until Linc vanished. Now a street war looms, and heaven help anyone who gets in the way of the soldiers. Narrated by a likeably self-deprecating protagonist, Wicked Break could be the prime beach read of summer 2006.