Deservedly popular though he is, p.i. Leo Waterman (The Deader the Better, 2000, etc.) remains sidelined while Ford adds a sequel to last year’s Fury, featuring true-crime–writer Frank Corso. Excellent decision. Waterman’s good, Corso’s terrific. This time out, Corso—tall, two-fisted, taciturn, romantically dour in the Marlowe manner—is an observer at the headline-grabbing trial of despicable Nicholas Balagula. A crook, a killer, a once–highly placed member of the Russian mafia, Balagula is charged with multiple counts of murder for his part in the collapse of Seattle’s newest hospital building, a victim of inferior materials secretly substituted—along with 63 people, 41 of them children—and the subject of Corso’s latest book. Intending no involvement beyond the literary, Corso can’t help mounting his metaphoric charger at the sight of a damsel in distress. Freelance photographer Meg Dougherty, until their recent schism the love of Corso’s life, is severely distressed, brutally beaten and left for dead by thugs who operate at Balagula’s behest. Justice has to be served, Meg has to get her payback, Balagula can’t be allowed to corrupt still another jury and go scot-free while knightly Corso lives and breathes. His relentless sleuthing earns him bruises of his own, but Balagula & Co. are made to rue their villainy. “You do love the moral high ground,” a friend tells him. He does, he knows it, and from that vantage point he’s never slow to kick serious butt.
Pace, plot, pitch, prose: all precisely as they should be in a model modern mystery.