John Francis Cuddy (Spiral, 1999, etc.) must be out of town, because when Kenny Van Horne is kidnapped, his great-grandfather, millionaire Beacon Harbor (Mass.) tank seller General Alexander Van Horne, calls instead on Matthew Langway, the private eye who helped design his 27-acre compound’s elaborate security system. Apart from holding staring contests with Gilbert Turgeon, Van Horne’s security chief, and letting Turgeon’s underlings angle for the recommendations that might net them some other job, Langway’s main activity while he waits for the ransom demand is collecting accounts of everybody’s whereabouts during the retarded child’s abduction from the Van Horne relatives and hangers-on: the General’s promiscuous daughter Lila, her stepson Yale, dutiful grandson Allen, Allen’s luscious wife Janine, Kenny’s air pair Gloria Reyes, his tutor Casper Binns, houseman Willie Nusby, and snooty Van Horne lawyer Sumner Kerstein. You’ve seen every complicating episode—Langway’s deflection of Lila’s news that she’s slept with Kerstein and is ready to extend the same courtesy to Langway, his visit to Allen’s dropout brother Ethan in Maine, the abortive ransom drop, the blood-soaked sequel—so many times before that you may be wondering why an old pro like Healy is bothering with these moth-eaten relics. Readers who persevere to the end will be treated to a double dose of ingenuity, and find out as well why Cuddy wasn’t available to take on this case.
Healy’s surprises are real enough, but he pays a heavy price for them. Matthew Langway is no Cuddy, and this slickly plotted, arid little puzzle is miles below the talented author’s most memorable work.