A houseguest’s fatal plunge from a neighbor’s second-story window spells trouble for Southampton carpenter/private eye Sam Acquillo and even bigger trouble for one of his closest friends.
Billionaire attorney/philanthropist Burton Lewis says he doesn’t remember the events that left Elton Darby dead in Joshua and Rosie Edelstein’s rhododendrons. But since Darby is still clutching Burton’s Patek Philippe in his fist, the police swiftly come up with a theory of his death that’s circumstantially confirmed by the accounts of the Edelsteins and Violeta Zaragoza, their Puerto Rican housekeeper. Hauled off in handcuffs, Burton makes bail with the push of a button on his cellphone, but he’s still on the hook for the murder of Darby, a staffer for the charity Volunteering with Love, aka the Loventeers. So Sam, whose search for the quiet life seems eternally doomed to failure (Tango Down, 2017, etc.), follows a trail that first appears when he’s suavely threatened by Art Reynolds, the attorney who chairs the Loventeers board, and Mikolaj Galecki, his hulking, multilingual personal assistant, and realizes that the FBI also has a strongly possessive interest in the case. Since there’s nothing like threats and official warnings to rev Sam’s engine, he’s soon headed for Puerto Rico on the strength of a cryptic tip, with the plan of masquerading as a carpenter—call it method acting—in order to infiltrate the local chapter of the Loventeers, which definitely needs and rewards infiltration. From the dedication to the closing acknowledgments, Knopf clearly intends Sam’s ninth adventure as a valentine to the island, and the long sequence set there, emphasizing the ways the struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria are heightened by long-standing corruption, is the clear highlight of this installment. Only when Sam high-tails it back to Long Island as if suddenly remembering that his No. 1 job is not to investigate the Loventeers but to clear his old friend do things settle into a more familiar, though hardly a reassuring, groove.
Knopf balances the usual Long Island byplay with an unflinching look at Puerto Rico’s distress.