An ex-cop has only a week to track down a missing witness who may have an alibi for a death-row inmate in this thriller.
Born-again Muslim Shahid al-Muhamin is a condemned man, seven days away from the gas chamber for killing his eight-months-pregnant wife. His attorney, Andrea Faber, thinks she can save him on appeal if she finds a witness who was absent from Shahid’s trial. She hires Virgil Roy Proctor to locate Harley Flowers, a suspended cop who claims Shahid was selling him rock cocaine at the time of the fatal stabbing eight years ago. Virgil thinks Shahid’s guilty but takes the job, hoping to steer Andrea clear of the convict’s children, Keisha and Jerrell Franklin. He knew the kids’ aunt and may be behind their currently unknown whereabouts. In the midst of a custody battle with his ex-wife, Catherine, Virgil also needs viable income to prove he can support his 7-year-old son. The case isn’t as easy as it sounds: a man representing a mysterious client offers a hefty paycheck to find Keisha and Jerrell, and before long, Virgil realizes Flowers isn’t missing but deliberately hiding. Dealing with unsavory characters in his search doesn’t quite prepare Virgil for stumbling upon a brutal murder—with more than one victim. Virgil, not a bona fide detective, has all the earmarks of one. He moves from one lead (Flowers’ eccentric reverend brother) to the next and borrows money from Shahid’s legal counsel for payoffs. Sure, he may pull the occasional breaking and entering and pocket any cash he comes across, but he’s not without honor, always considering the children, even the two who aren’t his. Relationships are refreshingly atypical, especially one involving Candy Quirke, who avoids her cheating, stalker-ish ex-husband, Dennis, by staying at Virgil’s, taking his phone calls like an assistant. Despite its serious subject matter, the story is often tongue-in-cheek: Virgil can’t keep himself out of jail, but just watch how he gets away from his cellmate, a furious, NFL linebacker–sized man named Dennis. There are solid ties to the preceding Virgil-centric novel (for example, Keisha and Jerrell), but Knight (Zero Tolerance, 2010) caters to both new and returning readers.
A protagonist whose nimbleness while facing danger is something to marvel at—and celebrate.