In this entry of Hatt’s (No Reason for Insanity, 2015, etc.) thriller series, Haszard searches for a dead man whose widow is sure she’s spotted him alive and well.
Haszard makes his living working at a hospital and running his own framing shop. But his time as an amateur sleuth, often done as favors, is what puts him in danger. When friend and former co-worker Alice Kirby sees her late husband, Graham, in a crowd, she goes to known puzzle-solver Haszard for answers. Graham died in a pileup less than a year prior, his charred body not easily identifiable. Only one of two DNA tests confirmed it was Graham, while the other showed a discrepancy. Haszard talks to a number of Graham’s associates and soon suspects that the man’s death was a sham, likely somehow connected to his involvement in something nefarious. What that illicit deed (or deeds) is, Haszard doesn’t immediately know. But he’s clearly making someone nervous, as one person he intends to interview turns up dead, followed by the protagonist scuffling with a mysterious figure—possibly the murderer. With assistance from his girlfriend, Sabrina, her baby sister, Adelaide, and other cohorts, Haszard delves into an unsolved, possibly relevant robbery, dabbles in a little breaking and entering, takes on another case, and even stumbles upon a second body. The author’s third outing with his mononymous (to readers, at least) hero features a bevy of characters entangled in the case, be they Haszard’s aides or suspects. It’s occasionally overwhelming, with Haszard rarely interrogating people or breaking into flats without two or more tagging along, including pal Grace and master of disguise Millie. Hatt, however, well incorporates Haszard’s extra case: Samantha Cole wants to know how an apparent drowning victim is still alive. It’s much better than subplots in preceding series entries, ultimately inciting a breakthrough in the Alice case, in which Sam lends a helping hand. The protagonist debating whether or not to vocalize the L-word with Sabrina is both endearing and funny. But the most amusing bits entail Haszard’s conspicuous discomfort around children, lifting Alice’s 3-year-old son based on “a right and wrong way of picking dogs up.”
A standard mystery, boosted by an entertaining quasi-detective and his unorthodox ways.