After several years following his two other series sleuths, Jackie Swaitkowski and Arthur Cathcart (A Billion Ways to Die, 2014, etc.), Knopf returns to Hamptons executive-turned-cabinetmaker Sam Acquillo, the hero who launched his fictional career.
Alfie Aldergreen was already living such a marginal life that it’s hard to believe it’s ended. But someone’s taken the trouble to duct-tape the addled, crippled Iraq War vet to his own wheelchair and drown him. Make that at least two someones, since there were no wheel tracks leading up to the spot where Paul Hodges spied Alfie’s head poking out of the water. Why would anyone have targeted such a harmless victim? Southampton Town Police Chief Ross Semple, who’s usually the first one to warn Sam off homicides on his patch (Black Swan, 2011, etc.), makes it clear he wants Sam’s help this time. And a conference with Suffolk County DA Edith Madison and comely ADA Oksana Quan suggests an obvious reason why: because Alfie is the third confidential police informant to die suddenly. Nor has his death ended the cycle of violence. The rear window of Sam’s 1967 Grand Prix is bashed in to discourage him. Then, apparently in case he hasn’t gotten the idea to lay off, his daughter, Allison, is attacked in her Manhattan apartment and left in a coma. Sam’s even hit by a fish truck in what seems to be an unrelated incident. All of these provocations have exactly the effect you’d expect, sending Sam diving ever deeper into the murky waters of past and present felonies.
The fog gets so thick, in fact, that some readers will doubt Knopf can cut through it all. But he does, with a keen, deadly final stroke that makes this sixth case one of Sam’s best.