A tragedy is rendered toothless as Stowers examines a child's murder in a tiny town in Texas. Veteran crime journalist and Edgar Award winner Stowers (Open Secrets, 1994; Sins of the Son, 1995; etc.) here studies the mysterious demise of Renee Goode, two years old at the time of her death in Alvin, Tex. Her mother, Annette, and grandmother Sharon Crouch immediately suspect Annette's creepy ex-husband, Shane. Renee had been conceived during a brief reconciliation between the two, and Shane had insisted that Annette abort the fetus; failing that, he simply ignored Renee. After the divorce, Shane relented and after one year asked to see Renee. The little girl was terrified of her father and hated to go to his house, but Annette felt obligated to encourage the relationship between daughter and father. One terrible night, Annette received a shocking call: Renee, who had been sleeping at her father's house, was dead. The coroner ruled the death natural and did only a cursory autopsy. Annette and her mother, Sharon, a sometime private investigator, sprang into action. After both the police and the medical examiner's office rejected their claim of foul play, they researched on their own and discovered that Shane had taken out a life insurance policy on little Renee weeks before her death. Sue Dietrich, an Alvin police officer, took over the moribund case and took it to trial, where Shane was convicted of murder. While the case is certainly horrible, Stowers fails to elevate it to an outrage; the writing is stiff and the characters read like a shallow combination of blue-collar and Nancy Drew. The police work until the entrance of Dietrich was truly shoddy and ruined what should have been an open-and-shut case, but Stowers's account simply doesn't crackle with the energy the three women poured into getting justice.