Southampton engineer-turned-carpenter Sam Acquillo (The Last Refuge, 2005) is still trying to lead a quiet life, but his plans run headlong into a murder to which he’s a witness, and almost a collateral casualty.
On most afternoons, the most interesting things to do on the balcony of the Windsong Restaurant are to watch the sunset, sip vodka, listen to other people’s small talk and wait for Jackie Swaitkowski, attorney at law. But the day that investment adviser Jonathan Eldridge happens by isn’t an ordinary day. Shortly after making a call with his cell phone (an important clue, as Sam realizes), he’s incinerated in his car by a hefty dose of C4. The blast is so powerful that it claims six other victims, fortunately not including Sam and the late-arriving Jackie. Although she’s escaped the morgue, Jackie’s clearly in for multiple sessions under the surgeon’s knife. So Sam, not satisfied with saving her life, decides to avenge the bombing by calling on Jonathan’s agoraphobic widow Appolonia and getting her to hire him, nominally to appraise Jonathan’s investment practice, but really to learn who closed it out. The ensuing mystery is meaty and inventive, though fans of Sherlock Holmes should beat Sam to the solution.
Sam’s more subdued than in his striking debut, but the suspects who compete for your attention take up the slack. Knopf has a real knack for creating interesting people and putting them through their paces.