A complex mystery adroitly interwoven with an appealing romance, courtesy of a seasoned pro.
A mega-rich Manhattan real-estate developer is gunned down as he steps from his private plane. Who would want to kill him? There’s only one clue at the outset: “Zelda,” the name Ed Vincent breathed before he lapsed into a coma. NYPD homicide detective Marco Camelia has no idea who Zelda is—until she shows up of her own accord. Turns out, she’s a 32-year-old single mother whose real name is Mel, short for Melba Eloise Merrydew, and she insists that Zelda was Ed’s pet name for her. Their romance began when Mel tracked down Ed in New York after accidentally witnessing a murder at his deserted beach house in North Carolina. She’s sure she saw a man killed at gunpoint, but come sunrise there was no body or sign of foul play. After hearing this, Ed didn’t know what to think or do next, but he was beguiled by the plucky Mel. Now helpless in his hospital bed, he can’t protect her or her seven-year-old daughter Riley. He’s unable to communicate with Mel or the detective, who digs up most of the backstory anyway. Ed is the son of a Tennessee sharecropper; he somehow survived the horrific fire set by a disturbed brother that killed the rest of his family as they slept. Adrift and penniless, Ed hauled garbage, built that into a business, then parlayed his money into a New York real-estate empire. Alberto Ricci, president of a Cayman Islands investment consortium, and Khalid al Sharif, a reclusive Saudi wheeler-dealer, are among those who want a piece of that empire, but these suave villains wouldn’t dirty their hands with a contract killing. That they leave to a strange man from Ed’s past who, once more, threatens Mel, her daughter, and Ed himself.
Adler (All or Nothing, 1999, etc.) makes this tangled plot seem plausible without even breaking a sweat. And, as always, her direct, razor-sharp style doesn’t waste a word—or anybody’s time.