An unshakable hunch and a sense of duty keep a dogged detective on the case in a nearly perfect murder.
When Lt. Joe Sonntag reads of Armand de Trouville's death, he decides to pay his respects on behalf of the Milwaukee Police Department. It's the 1950s, and the mercurial Trouville had developed the science of document examination to help in civil and criminal cases. Few people are at the funeral home. Indeed, Trouville, who died of heart failure, seems to have left no will. Expecting to return to the station house, Sonntag is enlisted instead to find Trouville's heirs, if there are any. Visits to both Trouville's office and home reveal a compulsively neat personality, but not a scintilla of personal information about him. Sonntag is ready to call it a job for somebody else, but his boss Captain Ackerman, who thinks it's really murder, instructs Sonntag to keep digging. Trouville's young assistant Harley Potter seems slightly resentful, but not resentful enough to murder, and tweedy receptionist Agnes Winsocket is above reproach. At length, however, Sonntag's systematic probe begins to yield results. He finds a discrepancy in the time of death and, after some pressure, Potter produces the names of several unhappy clients. But is Trouville's tabula rasa life one of single-minded dedication or a clever invention to hide a shady past? As leads become more complex, ladylove Lizbeth plays Nora to Sonntag's droll Nick.
Pseudonymous Brand's third Sonntag caper (Night Medicine, 2011, etc.) rolls slowly, buoyed by Brand's crisp prose and Sonntag's reflexive wisecracks.