The third volume in Daigle’s (A Game Called Dead, 2016, etc.) mystery series tells the continuing story of a detective as he and his New Jersey manufacturing town recover from setbacks.
Frank Nagler is a dogged investigator with the Ironton, New Jersey, police department who’s seen his town decline over the years due to plant closures, crooked politicians, and a devastating flood. He shut down emotionally after his young wife Martha’s death, finding solace in his work. Lately, a burgeoning relationship with Lauren Fox, a city planner, has been bringing him back to life. Ironton is also enjoying a renaissance with a progressive mayor and small cluster of new stores downtown, including a bookstore owned by Frank’s friend Leonard. But a pall falls over Ironton when a traumatized young girl, wearing just a tank top and shorts, is found in a dumpster on a cold night. At the same time, a mystery group is illegally obtaining local properties. Investigating both cases leads Frank to unearth an evil family’s history. The cases eventually threaten the safety of people important to him, including Lauren; his ancient mentor, Sister Marie Katherine; Leonard; and Leonard’s girlfriend, Calista Knox. As Frank’s friend Del Williams explains, “You see how deep the poison goes, how strong is the wrong in what they doin’ and your soul cries out for justice and you just wanna bring ’em down.” Before the action is done, neither Frank nor Ironton will be the same. Daigle has done an admirable job of portraying the evolutions of Frank and the hometown that he loves and protects. The detective realizes that Ironton has flaws, some self-inflicted, but he’s not ready to give up on it or its people. Many of those people are shown to have his back, as well, including Lauren at home and his colleague Lt. Maria Ramirez at work. This helps him to unravel a complicated, sometimes-repulsive mystery that spans decades and several states. Daigle’s narrative is well-paced, allowing the reader to piece together the clues right along with Frank, and it all leads to a melancholy but satisfying conclusion.
An involving thriller with a memorable protagonist.