After a two-volume hiatus, Burke brings back reporter Irene Kelly (Nine, 2002, etc.) to untangle the strands of a 40-year-old web.
The mix of prequel, family saga, and plain old whodunit opens in 1958 when “Handsome Jack” Corrigan, who covers the crime beat for the Las Piernas (California) Express, is beaten half to death by people he’s never set eyes on. They’re obviously hired thugs, but who hired them? To both Jack and his young friend and colleague Conn O’Connor, it’s all a mystery dwarfed by what seems a parallel mystery. On that same night the family Ducane, socially prominent and well known to Jack, is violently decimated by persons unknown. Flash-forward to Irene’s entrance in 1978. Mentored by O’Connor, now the ace of the Express staff, she’s an eager, adorable, though patently uncuddly cub who’s been digging on O’Connor’s behalf into the murky matters that have long concerned him. Irene has time to untangle only a few strands and identify a few suspects before 20 more years zip by—to a time when O’Connor has joined Handsome Jack in that great newspaper in the sky, passing the star-reporter torch to Irene, along with a driving need to pierce the impenetrable veil, as she finally does.
Irene is lively and smart, but this feast of nearly 500 pages is like three generations of clogged arteries.