For a welcome change, serious crime in Rutherford, Minnesota, is so slow that the gang at the station house—Bo Dooley, Andy Pitman, Clint Maddox, Darrell Betts, Lou French, Kevin Evjan, and Chief of Detectives Jake Hines—are passing the time by jocularly comparing the m.o. of past and recent con artists, with an emphasis on the bodacious babe, the guy with a big nose, and the little girl who are currently working over local convenience stores and sloshed bar patrons. Their reverie is interrupted when a body crammed into a Dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant turns up. When they rush to the scene and tip it out, there’s another body, almost as badly mashed, beneath it. The Dumpster doesn’t belong to the restaurant, but has been hauled there from Bo’s backyard. Foul play by some of his recovering-addict wife’s dealers? Bo is shunted off the case and replaced by eager-beaver Rosie Doyle, with frequent consulting calls to DNA expert Trudy Hanson, Hines’s girlfriend. Meanwhile, the babe and the kid are still scamming the town, but where’s Mr. Big Nose? Meticulous police work, dogged persistence, and just a bit of providential nudging from the author will tie the murders to the swindlers and to an unsolved five-year-old Rutherford homicide.
Gunn’s mastered small-town nuances, police procedure, and now, as in Six-Pound Walleye (2001), deft character-sketching. Why isn’t some awards committee handing her a prize?