A celebrated FBI agent investigates the disappearance of a young African-American girl and the possibility of a racist conspiracy in this novel.
FBI agent James Strait received national recognition for his bravery in foiling a terrorist attack by a crazed, anti-government cult. But in the aftermath, his life was left in shambles. A fellow agent and girlfriend died in the raid on the cult’s redoubt, and Strait was badly wounded and became addled by Meniere’s disease, which makes him prone to bouts of disabling vertigo. His future at the FBI in doubt, Strait returns to his hometown—Pine River, Arizona—and is drawn to the case of a missing 9-year-old girl, Jophia Williams. Pine River Police Chief August Kladspell takes it for granted that Jophia was murdered by her father—Marvin Elijah Williams has a nefarious political past—and seems disinterested in pursuing the investigation further. But Strait uncovers evidence of breathtaking incompetence, and then of a staged murder, raising the possibility that Jophia is still alive. He also has reason to believe that the local police department is contaminated by racial bias—many on the force are members of the New Confederation, a white supremacist group growing in popularity. Strait discovers that more children similar in age and race have vanished, a pattern that points to a criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, he seeks help from a physician who specializes in Meniere’s disease and flirts with the possibility of starting a new romance, slowly attempting to rebuild his emotionally shattered life. The author writes in crisply clear prose (“Everyone knew that those peaceful-looking houses, known as the Stacks, were bases for all manner of criminality, and everyone knew there was no tranquil meadow in The Meadows. The area was ground-zero for all the big city shit that manifested itself just as horrifically in this small town as it did in Phoenix”). Eidswick (The Language of Bears, 2017) portrays his protagonist with great depth; Strait is a stoical combination of grit and emotional vulnerability. In addition, the author artfully raises provocative questions about the fraught relationship between race and institutional power. Finally, there’s plenty of gripping action here, cinematically depicted. But the plot’s pace is languidly slow, and there’s no good reason the novel should be over 400 pages. Furthermore, the conclusion is well-telegraphed, making the book more effective as a drama than a mystery.
An intelligently crafted but sluggishly paced crime tale.