This prequel to Lonely Deceptions (2011) follows the Davis brothers after World War II, and their dealings with a nefarious information broker.
In the winter of 1946, war veteran Nelson Davis, of Rosewood, New Jersey, has just laid his parents to rest. He’s now committed to caring for his older brother, Christopher, and hopes that they might go into business together. Christopher, however, has returned from the war with sensitive information—a secret list of names that he hopes to expose without endangering his last living relative. To that end, he travels to Georgia and attempts to contact The Savannah Times. Four months later, in a tavern, Nelson finally finds Christopher, who seems paranoid and roughed-up. The bartender tries to oust them, and after Christopher pummels the man, a car chase ensues, during which Christopher is gravely injured. Before dying, he hands Nelson the key to a train station locker, embroiling him in the intrigue surrounding the list. Meanwhile, Savannah Times reporter Rose Blake also searches for Christopher. When she finds Nelson instead, the two explore the list’s importance; central to the mystery is the ruthless, enigmatic Roth Braun, a man with ties to Hitler who seeks to profit from a secret cabal of American politicians. Willis (Cascading Lies, 2015) expands his story of the Davis family that he began in Lonely Deceptions; in that installment, Nelson is elderly and his adult children, Nick and Amy, must contend with an international syndicate. Once again, pulp fiction riffs prove to be Willis’ narrative specialty: “it’s not the liquor that stinks to high heaven in this bar,” Christopher says at one point. A subplot in which a woman hires a private eye to track her wayward fiance further embellishes the noir trappings. The plans of the senators, though, who say that “our political system has become ill,” remain underdeveloped. The most entertaining element of this tale is the chemistry between Nelson and Rose.
A too-brief page-turner featuring appealing characters.