Capt. Josie Corsino’s fourth case is a prequel to her first three (Unnatural Murder, 2014, etc.) set so far back in the past that she isn’t even Josie Corsino yet.
The year 1971 finds the LAPD still battling the Workers Liberation Movement, with Josie Pastore stuck in the middle. As a member of the Public Disorder and Intelligence Division, Josie’s been embedded with the WLM, working undercover, for three years with precious little to show for it when she's arrested during an unusually confrontational demonstration. Josie’s LAPD liaison, Sgt. Jon “Brickhouse” Murphy, arranges her bail and tells her to ask unobtrusive questions about Detective Dave Soriano, another PDID op who’s gone missing. And Emily Rice, a useful idiot whom both she and the WLM cultivate because of her husband, ACLU attorney Burton Rice, rescues Josie from her squalid apartment by offering her the use of her guesthouse. But leads on Soriano's whereabouts are sparse, and Josie’s not willing to risk blowing her cover to pursue them very aggressively. So Murphy teams her up with undercover cop Charlie Jones in the hope of finding Soriano more quickly. The task is made harder by the fact that Josie and Charlie are living double lives, surrounded by people they can’t trust, and Sgt. Julie Carlson, Soriano’s new LAPD contact, seems more interested in venting than helping. Then, suddenly, the quest is ended when the body of Soriano, shot to death, washes up on Venice Beach. Josie’s eager to end her assignment and return to the cop’s version of a normal social life, but Murphy insists she stay in place and unmask the killer—with a little help from deputy DA Jake Corsino. Hmm.
The mystery actually gets less and less interesting as it limps along to the final hollow surprise. As usual in this series, Dial’s precise eye for the carrots and sticks of the LA justice system is the standout feature.