Sam Acquillo tackles a cold case that arouses his warmest feelings: the murder of his father 40 years ago.
Not that Sam was André Acquillo’s biggest fan. “If you think I care what happened to my old man, you’re wrong,” he tells Orfio Pagliero, a mob scion who turned legit but never turned against his own father, Sicilian gangster Leon Pagliero. Orfio has been linked to André’s murder by a tip from true-crime writer Trevor Cleary, whose brother, Father Nelson Cleary, Sam’s sought out to learn more about a crucifix found at the bar where his father was killed. Sam insists to each of them in turn that he feels nothing but gratitude to the person who ended his father’s life, and an overlong but heartfelt series of flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence provides abundant evidence why he would’ve hated the father who treated him with such casual cruelty. Yet Sam not only allows himself to be talked into reopening this ice-cold case, but persuades Lt. Madelyn Wollencroft, a Bronx cold-case specialist, to join him in his joyless quest. Shaking the trees produces the usual fruit—somebody tails Sam, somebody tries to kill him, and everybody he meets pronounces his name without sounding out the L’s—but he persists. By the final revelation he’s not only bonded improbably with Wollencroft, but discovered so much more about his family than he ever cared to know that the identification of his father’s killer comes as a distinct anticlimax.
Though Knopf (Cop Job, 2015, etc.) keeps the pot steadily simmering, this seventh case, middling for the series, is more notable for its human relationships than its whodunit.