Harrison’s fleet seventh novel, originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine, follows an insurance attorney down a trail he wishes he’d never taken.
Ten weeks after her son Roger is killed, Diana Corbett, herself seriously ill, tells George Young that she needs to know more about his last hours. It isn’t his death she wants George to investigate—surveillance video shows that Roger emerged from a bar at 1:30 a.m. and got hit by a garbage truck as he paused after stepping off the curb to examine a piece of paper from his pocket—but the question of what he was doing for the four hours he sat in the bar. George, who’s by no means a professional detective, can’t imagine why imperious Diana has chosen him for this job. But he’s done a fair amount of work investigating fraudulent claims, and he’s always been grateful to Diana’s late husband, his firm’s founder, for plucking him from obscurity. So he begins to ask questions and in short order finds some answers, though none to Diana’s liking. She refuses to acknowledge that Eliska Sedlacek, the willowy Czech hand model with whom Roger spent most of his last evening and many nights before, was his girlfriend. Instead she’s more interested in the call Roger made from his cell phone minutes before he died, a call that remains as much a mystery to George as the question of what was written on the vanished piece of paper that so interested Roger. Meanwhile, Eliska has developed a strong interest in a box of Christmas tree ornaments Roger’s ex-wife cleaned out of his apartment after his death. George spends a great deal of time tracking down the ornaments and figuring out why Eliska cares so much about them before he confronts Roger’s darkest secret.
If this fast-paced, surprisingly reflective yarn doesn’t measure up to Harrison’s more ambitious thrillers (The Finder, 2007, etc.), it’s well worth its price and length.