A Baltimore private eye searches for a missing husband while working out whether someone’s trying to kill her or one of her clients in this 1980-set mystery.
Annie Carter’s just back from a case in Philadelphia and already has a potential client at her door. Ex–Special Forces and paramedic Charlie Magee thinks someone’s out to kill him; he’s not even inside Annie’s home and office before gunshots are ringing. He’s a good friend to Jack Winslow, the boyfriend of Annie’s daughter, Elizabeth, but the private investigator’s reluctant to take the case, as Magee’s short on details. One thing’s clear: the murder attempts started after the paramedic’s ambulance picked up a man who fell or jumped out of a window. An assailant then attacked Magee and stopped him from saving the man’s life, leading his skeptical bosses to suspend him. Annie, meanwhile, gets another gig: Vivian Rowlandson’s retired colonel husband, Glenn, and the family station wagon have disappeared, and she’s afraid a blackout has left him disoriented. Additional gunfire and threats, including notes and a dead cat, however, could be aimed at Annie, as a murderous former client wants revenge regarding an old case that didn’t quite go his way. Larew (Dead in Dubai, 2015, etc.) stacks the obstacles for her sardonic protagonist, who initially seems indifferent when questioning Magee (to be fair, she’s really tired from her Philadelphia sleuthing). But resilient and blunt Annie can be charming, with her dialogue pithy as she assures Elizabeth, worried about fresh bullet holes in the detective’s home: “It’s been months since anybody tried to kill me.” The hefty plot has Annie scouring for information on the ambulance victim, Artie Ho; delving into Glenn’s Army days; and being trailed by an aviator shades–wearing stranger. Annie and Magee’s relationship is both relevant and believable—two possible targets watching each other’s backs. The somewhat less engaging final act primarily wraps up one last case, while all subplots are sufficiently resolved by the end.
A gumshoe with the drollery to make her intriguing and the gumption to get the job done.