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by Ed Gorman

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7867-0569-8

It’s 1958, and Buddy Holly has just been killed, together with Richie Valens, in a plane crash hours after Sam McCain took Pamela Forrest, the co-worker who’s never loved him, to see Buddy at the Surf Ballroom. What else can go wrong in Black Rivers Falls, Iowa? Sam, an investigator for imperious old-money Judge Esme Anne Whitney, finds out when a predawn call from Judge Whitney sends him out to her nephew Kenny’s place to discover the corpse of Kenny’s wife Susan and a distraught Kenny, who puts down his .45 just long enough to admit killing her before he blows his own brains out. Cliff Sykes, the new-money police chief who hates the Whitneys and all their works, is licking his chops over the field day he’ll have over this open-and-shut case—till Sam imprudently announces his suspicion that Kenny, despite his confession, didn’t kill his wife after all, putting Sam on the chief’s hit list and setting him up for the next blow: the news that his sister Ruthie is in the family way and doesn’t know what to do about it. As he struggles to face his nightmare scenario—that Ruthie will turn to the back-alley abortionist whose latest victim Sam finds dead in the novel’s most subtle and powerful sequence—Sam has to wonder what a coincidence it is that Black Rivers Falls has suddenly become the scene of so many violent deaths. Native son Gorman (Harlot Moon, p. 155, etc.) puts an ironic spin on every detail of the 1950s decor, from fast cars to Ayn Rand to Gold Medal paperbacks. The tapestry is so rich, and the cast so various, that it’s no wonder we can’t spend longer with the killer.