An intrepid junior reporter takes on a decades-old cold case in Lee’s debut mystery.
If Sera Schilling doesn’t come up with a byline-worthy investigative article for the San Diego Observer in the next two months, she’ll finish her internship without an offer of full-time employment. So when she receives a disgruntled phone call from retired San Diego police officer Pete McGraw, she’s willing to listen. He’s upset about the Observer’s recent handling of a cold case dating from 1933: the unsolved death of a young boy named Christopher Abkhazian. Although the report concluded that the death was accidental, Pete insists that the boy was murdered and that someone is covering up what really happened. Though skeptical, Sera decides to hear Pete out. His story, told over the course of several interviews, tells of weeks of investigative work that came tantalizingly close to nabbing a suspect before coming to an abrupt halt; just as Pete prepared to make an arrest, he was thrown off the case. The more Sera hears, the more determined she becomes to unearth what really occurred. As she begins to piece together the unsolved case, she starts to suspect that there may be someone in her circle willing to go to deadly lengths to keep it buried. Lee’s engrossing prose is rooted in specific detail that wonderfully evokes the setting of San Diego, both contemporary and historical. He describes present-day San Diego Bay, for example, in this way: “Under a small tornado of squawking seagulls, the smell of fish and brine combined with the guttural Portuguese voices of males as they worked cleaning the hold." Although a few of the connections between the 1933 case and Sera’s contemporary timeline seem a little thin, the central mystery remains complex enough to intrigue readers.
A complex, well-plotted tale with an engaging setting.