Detectives Simon Goldtree and Frank Garrowey fall easily into a solid good-cop/bad-cop routine. Although the easygoing duo faces a bit of a challenge when empathetic younger Simon gets promoted to lieutenant ahead of tough Frank, Simon’s modesty and Frank’s generosity keep their partnership strong. A bigger challenge presents itself during the investigation of the brutal murder of wealthy insurance executive Martin Stanstead. Essex City, though hours north of New York, still has its share of big-city crime. Stanstead’s widow Carol takes the news of his death with a stoicism that their distraught daughter Alice interprets as indifference. There’s also a mistress, the feline Kerry Snowe, and a handful of colleagues with motives. When Simon and Frank find a link between Stanstead and local crime boss Alvin Landowski, they know they’re close to cracking the case. But Landowski turns the tables. He puts a tail on the very private Simon, who has a spotless reputation, hoping to find some basis for blackmail. What Landowski uncovers changes irrevocably Simon’s life, the course of the investigation, and the focus of the novel. The pursuit of the killer is dropped as Simon spends 100-plus pages dealing with his . . . unique situation and the fallout that ensues from its revelation. The mystery’s hurried, long-delayed solution, though logical enough, feels like an epilogue.
Pollack (Godmother Night, 1996, etc.) has successfully stretched the conventions of category fiction before. The complex, believable characters and solid storytelling are compelling. Still, hardcore mystery fans may feel shortchanged.