Helping out a friend by tying up a dead woman’s affairs, a man stumbles upon a possible real estate scam, along with a couple of murders, in this debut thriller, the first in a series.
Owen Delaney has been in a funk ever since his mom died and his heretofore unknown birth father made it clear that he wants nothing to do with Owen. A law school graduate, Owen’s dawdling in his Philadelphia home, unsure that he wants to be a lawyer. So he readily agrees when New York pal Rick Jennings asks him to tend to details regarding recently deceased Virginia Steele, who lived and worked in Owen’s city. The once desultory Owen can’t help but stew over Virginia’s suspicious car accident: no skid marks and a disconnected airbag suggest suicide. But when he learns that Virginia’s friend Marian McNeil died in a similar accident, he thinks maybe someone has killed the two women. Owen pokes around, uncovering a potential motive after linking Virginia to a bogus mortgage, a way to finagle money from an oblivious client at Virginia’s firm. Perhaps someone wanted to keep Virginia quiet—and now Owen as well, who believes the mugger’s attack he survived was actually a murder attempt. Readers, meanwhile, know for sure that a man named Barrett is out to “neutralize” Owen. The slow start to this book is befitting to the protagonist. Owen considers simply speaking to people a hassle, so when he’s suddenly faced with a murder scenario, it’s a welcome spark to ignite the plot. Owen certainly has his share of alarming moments, like a break-in at his house and a dubious attorney accosting him with questions about Virginia. But the best scenes showcase his shortcomings or mistakes, reminders that he’s a relatable Everyman wrapped in an amateur investigation. When, for example, Owen asks where Marian’s life insurance goes, a receptionist shuts down his questioning by telling him it’s none of his business. Caffrey occasionally slips in a dog-eared cliché, like a captured Owen escaping by employing the “Look over there” trick. But the author boosts his thriller with a few effective turns, including red herrings and double crosses.
A convincing amateur sleuth whose kinks are as equally enjoyable as his triumphs.