Brooklyn homicide detective Jack Leightner reacts violently to the dead body, and at first can’t understand why. A 20-year veteran, he’s seen more than his share of stabbings, but this one is different. Somehow this murdered Hispanic kid connects to his own life so intensely that he soon becomes obsessed with finding the killer. On the face of it, Tomas Barrios was an ordinary boy in an ordinary job, an elevator operator in an apartment building. Why then should powerful people seem unnerved by Leightner’s investigation? For that matter, why should Leightner himself be unnerved by it, as if there were something he needed to hide? Because there is, of course, and he’s been hiding it from all the world—his friends, his ex-wife, his son, himself—in order to block all awareness of how emotionally crippling the secret has been. Thirty years ago, Leightner’s younger brother was knifed in exactly the same way, in almost the same isolated Red Hook locale, as Tomas Barrios. For all that time, Leightner has shouldered the blame for his brother’s murder. Now, acting against his orders, he endangers not only his career but his relationship with a woman he knows he can love in order to answer this new riddle because he senses that solving Tomas’s murder will amount to an act of expiation, perhaps redemption.
The protagonist is flawed, often self-hating, and yet deeply sympathetic in this accomplished first novel: a police procedural with heart.