A Texas private investigator and his assistant are hired by a man who is looking for his brother, but what unfolds is something completely different.
It’s 1973 in Beaumont, Texas, and Tom Phelan is trying to make a go of Phelan Investigations with the help of his assistant, Delpha Wade, who is recovering from injuries inflicted by a serial killer in a previous case (The Do-Right, 2015). And that’s only one of Delpha’s problems. She went to prison at 18 for killing a man who raped her. Now 32, she’s on parole and learning to navigate a world with freedom, choices, and even new social exchanges. “Congratulations to you,” she says to someone about a new baby—a phrase she’s never uttered before in her life. When an elderly man named Xavier Bell asks them to find his brother, Tom and Delpha’s meticulous research uncovers more than anyone expects. What sounds like an ordinary PI caper, though, becomes something elevated, poignant, and complex in this beautifully written novel. The author’s use of dialogue is perfectly regional, and her descriptions evoke a cross between Raymond Chandler and James Lee Burke. A briefcase “might have been rubbed with twenties to give it the mellow sheen,” and “the desk man was a middle-aged cop whose starched shirt could have worked the shift without him.” The author also conveys the realities of doing research in 1973, from using phone books and libraries to tracking down old paper records.
Proving that anything old can be new in the right, talented hands, Sandlin has crafted an outstanding series that readers will want to follow and savor.