In the first of a series, a former San Francisco cop working for a mysterious security organization goes back home to tackle a treacherously slippery case.
The assignment is routine: arrange a heroin buy that will trap ex-cons Joe Williams and Yusef Fakir in a DEA sting. But Dante Mancuso can’t muster any appetite for the job. He’s not eager to return to the town he left seven years ago after butting heads with his superiors over a murder confession he insisted was a cover-up; he’s even less eager to see Marilyn Visconti, the girl he left behind; and he’s not happy about the coincidental death of his cancer-stricken father from an overdose of pain medication just as Dante’s getting the assignment. Even though most people agree that Giovanni Mancuso’s death can be put down to natural causes, nobody thinks that when Dante’s Uncle Salvatore is gunned down in his home. Spotted leaving the building after failing to report the body, Dante naturally becomes a top priority of SFPD Homicide Det. Frank Ying. The pair’s wary dance of mutual suspicion—a sentiment echoed in Dante’s relations with Marilyn, his old lover, and his new, the improbably named Anita Blonde—perfectly sets the tone for a denouement that turns out to be anything but routine.
Though Stansberry’s mastery of tones (Manifesto for the Dead, 2000, etc.) is pretty much limited to the elegiac, nobody works his patch of funereal noir to sadder effect.