After four action-packed procedurals starring California Fish and Game Warden John Marquez (Redback, 2011, etc.), Russell moves to the big city for a more traditional but equally powerful tale of crime and punishment.
The discovery of a bound and strangled Jane Doe in an abandoned building in San Francisco’s China Basin partners veteran Inspector Ben Raveneau with Elizabeth la Rosa, who’s been taken under the wing of Deputy-chief Edith Grainer and made a Homicide Inspector at the tender age of 32. Raveneau’s distracted from the case by the release from prison of computer wizard Cody Stoltz, who served five years for shooting his friend John Reinert. Stoltz insisted the shooter was a mugger who happened onto the scene of the buddies’ quarrel over Erin Quinn, Reinert’s wife and Stoltz’s lover. Inspectors Ted Whitacre and Charles Bates saw the evidence differently, and a jury agreed with them. When Whitacre, dying of cancer, dies in what Raveneau thinks a suspiciously timed suicide and Bates’s wife is struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver, Raveneau has to suspect Stoltz, who says he’s innocent but taunts Raveneau with how pleased he is. Equally creepy is Carl Heilbron, the body-shop technician who walks in, confesses to the Jane Doe murder (though he can’t supply the name of the deceased and gets crucial details wrong), then changes his mind and walks free. The intricate plot will lead to more killings, more discoveries of malfeasance and a lot more questions for Raveneau.
The plot is upstaged by the brooding characters, good and evil, the snappy rhythms of Russell’s sharply observed prose and the promise of Raveneau’s return.