Private eye Bertrand McAbee returns to his former profession to investigate missing persons at an Iowa university in this thriller.
The disappearance of Baden College student Tina Tallon won’t be handled quietly. Her parents, fuming over the university’s presumed lack of response, have called the authorities, a story the press quickly picks up. President Wilford Gregory believes it’s much worse than a missing student, linking Tina to three prior vanishings associated with Baden: a professor in 1985, a French student in ’89, and the school nurse in ’96. The college opts for bringing in classics professor–turned–private eye McAbee. Sure, he’ll teach courses for a semester, but he’s genuinely there to find a possible murderer among the faculty—or to eliminate them as suspects. McAbee and his colleagues back at the Davenport agency start with a list of 13 faculty members, eventually whittling it down to five, each with the opportunity to snatch the four victims. A local teen, meanwhile, stumbles upon a peculiar (and unsettling) scene in the woods and turns up missing, and another Baden affiliate inexplicably disappears as well. McAbee covertly interrogates the five men, while a killer’s perspective reveals the detective, now under the watchful eye of a disturbed individual, may be a little too close to the truth. The author hits the ground running with a resolute mystery. Readers are constantly updated with McAbee’s lists: the initial 13, profiles of the dubious 5, and even McAbee using a point system to list suspects by probable guilt. Deciding who’s the murderer (theoretically, since there are no bodies) isn’t easy, and McCaffrey (A Went Over Case, 2016, etc.) waits until the last 10 pages before finally identifying the culprit. Danger lurks throughout the narrative, with the killer siccing vicious dogs on McAbee and shadowing associates, including Augusta Satin. Subtlety is largely absent: the private eye’s questions about the disappearances make it obvious he’s fishing, and the story merely hints at Augusta’s love for the detective. But it’s hard to argue over the manner of investigation when McAbee and his crew get results—and a chance to continue the series.
An intelligent, intuitive detective who steers clear of guns in favor of a team of talented cohorts.