A homicide detective in the cold case division gets an edge when the ghost of a cop offers his assistance in Moats’ (Eulogy for Murder, 2016, etc.) lighthearted thriller.
After Detroit detective Russ Baker fails to thwart a ring of murderous thieves, he gets a demotion that puts him down in a basement full of cold case files. He’s all alone down there until he meets Detective Wesley “Wes” Loomis, who’s now a ghost after his corrupt partner shot him dead. Wes says that a man from “the dark place”—which he surmises is somewhere between heaven and hell—has enlisted him to help Russ. He can read minds and converse with other ghosts, which proves to be beneficial for closing old cases (and allowing lingering spirits to move on). Of course, Russ has to keep his new partner a secret because no one else can see or hear him, so he attributes the sudden breaks in unsolved cases to an unnamed source. Russ’ success so impresses his captain that he gives the detective an open case involving four murdered women, the victims of a probable serial killer. Preventing a fifth killing, however, won’t be easy, as Wes inexplicably can’t contact the victims’ spirits. Moats’ short, often jaunty tale has very few scenes of violence or instances of profanity. Humor, however, is in abundance; for example, Russ’ discussions with Wes often seem to others like he’s talking to himself. At other times, Russ worries about Wes’ persistent presence, especially when a woman invites herself to his house. There’s little to the actual mystery, though; pinpointing the guilty party doesn’t take long, and even Russ, as the narrator, acknowledges that Wes does most of the heavy lifting. Also, some descriptions are overly sparse; at one point, for example, the partners drop in on a suspect businessman who’s described only as a man “seated at his large desk.”
Delightful, ghostly interactions help this novel transcend its bare-bones plot.