In Bukey’s (Leap of Faith, 2014) sophomore thriller, reporter Ann Dexter scours an abducted opera singer’s past hoping she’ll find clues that will lead his captor to release him.
Ann would prefer investigative journalism to reporting on education for the Seattle Times, but she’s happy to interview Franco Albanese. He’s the rock star of opera, and Ann, a fan of the art form, is smitten by the striking, charismatic singer. But at a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Don Giovanni, Ann’s disappointed to learn that Franco won’t be singing. The man, as it turns out, has disappeared. Ann sees potential for a story and the chance to prove herself an investigative reporter. She talks with Franco’s associates, starting with his assistant, Martin Coulter. The kidnapper sends Ann emails, which the cops start monitoring. Against the wishes of her boss, Jeff Skinner, and authorities, Ann initiates covert correspondence with the kidnapper, who cryptically demands she publish Franco’s confession. She continues to delve into the singer’s history, locking onto a possibly relevant event from years earlier. Her investigation deepens when someone winds up murdered, and Ann’s persistence could lead her into danger. Bukey’s protagonist, well-established in her preceding novel, is just as fascinating the second time, supported by psychic boyfriend, Victor, and sis Nancy, who’s undergoing chemo. But her flaws make her stand out: though she cares for Nancy, she’s likewise territorial, wanting her sister to know exactly who Victor “belonged to” when sensing a closeness between them. The prose follows suit: narrator Ann points out shortcomings of her home (“dark and mossy”). The apparent blemishes give the setting flavor, in this case, an irresistible somber ambience. Inconsistencies are unfortunately hard to miss: a smartphone is also written as Smartphone and Smart Phone, while an important text is later noted as a voice mail.
A dynamic protagonist’s resolve makes her an admirable sleuth in this moody thriller.