Smooth shamus Alex Rasmussen hits the beach to search for a missing teenager.
The preeminent private eye in Lowell, Massachusetts (The Skelly Man, 1995, etc.), is hired by affluent suburbanite Paula Jensen to find her daughter Michelle, whom she hasn’t heard from in two days. Michelle had been spending a week visiting Ben Nickerson, her father, in California, and another driving back with him to Boston’s South Shore to extend her vacation. Though she considers this trip a hostile act, Paula displays no rancor. Indeed, the Jensens and their household seem nearly perfect. Paula’s only worry about Michelle is her affinity for heavy-metal bands. Alex, however, learns from Michelle’s younger sister Katie that her relationship with her mom and her stepfather Ross was strained. At the beach, patronizing Police Chief Delcastro shrugs off Paula’s concern and remains unhelpful, even though Ben Nickerson turns out to be missing too, and clues are scarce. The last person to see Ben alive was a sunny young woman named Jillian, whom he picked up at a seaside bar. When Jillian dies in a suspicious car crash, instinct tells Alex that he’s rattling the right cages. But ferreting out the solution takes considerably more legwork as well as standing up to some passive-aggressive players who want to keep the truth a secret.
Daniel’s easy style makes riding with Alex a pleasure, but the passive-aggressive plot could use more tension.