In this sequel, a New Yorker with a past might not have a future after a vagrant’s gift puts her in mortal danger.
“What the hell do you wear to a funeral for a homeless guy?” Charley Anderson asks herself in the novel’s first sentence, immediately clueing readers to the main character’s irreverent attitude. An Upper East Sider, Metropolitan Museum of Art Board member, and multimillionaire, 40-year-old Charley suffers physical and emotional scars from a horrifying accident years earlier. Not to the manor born, Charley feels more comfortable talking to her doorman Carlton and Ben Williams, the homeless man always stationed outside her high-rise, than to the building’s residents. Upon learning of Ben’s death, Charley claims his body, pays for his burial (she’s the only gravesite visitor), and learns he left instructions to give her an envelope containing a pencil-written partial address, a key, remnants of a checkbook, and a girl’s faded photograph. Following the interment, Charley returns home to find a letter saying no harm will come to her if she turns over the contents of Ben’s envelope to a P.O. box. Soon Carlton, who had ties to the threatening letter, is found dead, his body tortured. A race ensues to find the lock that Ben’s key fits, the girl in his pocketed photo, and the culprit who killed Carlton before harm comes to Charley. Her chauffer, Jeff Jackson; private investigator Nash Pope and his team; and banker Joe Turner offer their assistance in keeping Charley safe and solving the mystery of why the contents of Ben’s envelope were cause for murder. (Joe also helps out in the bedroom.) Accounts of Met fundraising and artist name-dropping enrich Long’s (Scars, 2018) thriller. Representatives of various ages, ethnic backgrounds, social strata, and sexual preferences form a tapestry not unexpected in New York City but welcome in a novel. The author organically inserts revelations of Charley’s backstory from the series’ origin book. But the torture scenes are gratuitous, even if lithe, blond Charley, who can blind a man “with her bare hands,” is the one dealing out the pain. Believable dialogue and occasional humor pepper the narrative. And descriptions can be compelling: “She projected authority that made whoever sat in the facing chair feel extremely small.”
A crime tale with a fierce, flawed heroine who surmounts plenty of perils and a few choice men.