A murder case the Southampton Town Police consider open and shut launches cabinetmaker Sam Acquillo once more into international intrigue.
Finish carpenter Ernesto Mazzotti does great work. But he’s an undocumented Colombian immigrant who’s already been arrested once for beating up a former employer who accused him of seducing his wife. So when global trade strategist Victor Bollings, the owner of the new house Ernesto and Sam are working on under the supervision of lead builder Frank Entwhistle, is found beaten to death with a golf club he’d loaned Ernesto—a driver on which the police find Ernesto’s fingerprints—Southampton Police Chief Ross Semple is ready to throw away the key. In fact, Semple, who’s encouraged Sam’s help in some of his previous cases (Back Lash, 2016, etc.), actively discourages him this time. No matter. Sam, who’s finally taken the exam for his private investigator’s license, enlists Jackie Swaitkowski, his lawyer pal, in Ernesto’s defense, and together they go looking for alternative suspects, from Rebecca Bollings, the deceased’s much younger widow, to the wraithlike Mauricio, who insists he’s a behavioral analyst for an unnamed federal agency. Dark hints concerning Ernesto’s Medellín background aren’t dispelled by Ernesto’s repeated refusals to talk about it, and Sam and Jackie keep getting warned that this time they’re in over their heads, which will soon roll. Bollings had sinister connections; the powers that be want this case closed without a murmur of dissent; and no one Sam talks to escapes unscathed. But the closest the promised whirlwind comes to Sam is a pair of brain tumors that suddenly strike down builder Amanda Anselma, his neighbor and lover, in an affecting sequence that seems to belong in a different book.
Menacing but ultimately toothless bogeymen, promised complications that never pan out, and a resolution that’s both obvious and unconvincing. Not the finest hour for the normally reliable hero or his Southampton regulars.