New York private eye Terry Orr is still struggling to recover from the subway murder of his wife Marina and infant son Davy (Closing Time, 2001). The events of September 11 have only exacerbated his constant grief, but there are optimistic signs as well. His teenaged daughter Bella seems well-adjusted and brings boundless joy to her father. Friends are looking out for Terry, and there’s a hint of romance with an ADA named Julie. These developments overshadow the mystery swirling around Sonia Salgado, recently free after serving a 30-year sentence for a crime she committed as a teenager. As a favor to Mrs. Maoli, his housekeeper, Terry agrees to help elderly Dorotea Salgado reunite her hardened ex-con daughter with the grandson she has never met. But Terry’s first meeting with Sonia is the discovery of her corpse. Despite harassment by the police, Terry tracks several unprosecuted accomplices from Sonia’s crime—the murder of a diamond merchant and the theft of nearly a million in unrecovered jewels—from Ahmed Hassan, now a prominent theater director under a different name, to thug Alfie Bascomb, who gives Terry a severe beating to drive him off the case. Terry’s probing also attracts the attention of shady cop Tommy Mangionella, a.k.a. Tommy Mango, and slick Hispanic civic leader Danny Villa, for reasons both obscure and suspicious. In between battles with his own personal demons, Terry ferrets out and fingers those from Sonia’s past.
Steeped in melancholic reverie and spot-on Manhattan detail, Terry’s noir saga doesn’t make it as mystery, but sparkles as a literary event.