Homicide detective Scott Donatelli understands that it’s Baltimore Herald reporter Darryl Billups’s job to investigate crimes. That’s why he lets Billups (Hidden in Plain View, 1999, etc.) onto the crime scene at Safe & Sound Storage on Reisterstown Road, where a 16-year-old shooter just took out two customers who discovered a long-dead corpse in Unit 25, only to be taken out himself by Thelma Holmes, Donatelli’s partner. So why is someone so determined to block the investigation—stealing the corpse from the medical examiner’s office, slashing Billups’s tires, and setting fire to his house? It could be that someone wants to protect the identity of the unknown woman who died 18 years ago. Or that someone wants to protect the identity of the person who stashed her body in Unit 25—someone who may be rich, powerful, and respected. Or it could be that someone’s out to get Billups, who has a reputation for poking his nose in where it’s not welcome. Whatever the reason, he’s in big trouble, and he’ll have to rely on a strange assortment of allies, including his yuppie sister Camille, hip-hop sports writer John “Mad Dawg” Murdoch, and Detective Holmes—whose relationship with Billups may be more than just professional—to pull his ass out of the fire.
While not as Baltimospheric as Laura Lippman, Walker’s at his best when wandering the mean streets with Billups, or riffing on race, or just talking trash, with the mystery a real but secondary interest.