In this third installment of a series, a detective’s latest investigation puts him in the crosshairs of a dirty politician and a dangerous man with mob ties.
LAPD detective Matt Jones is on medical leave following a harrowing serial killer case in Philadelphia. Back in Los Angeles, he discovers that his shrink doesn’t think he’s ready to return to the field. As a result of the diagnosis, Matt’s supervisor assigns him a “murder lite.” It’s a body buried in Elysian Park, and cops soon identify 15-year-old Sophia Ramirez. She appears to be the victim of a rape/murder, but none of the evidence points to anyone. Matt does, however, discover a videotaped encounter between Sophia and Robert Gambini, the nephew of crime boss Joseph Gambini. Another buried body guides Matt to DMG Waste Management, a local company, and its three co-owners, who have a mysterious relationship with the younger Gambini. Now the detective surmises DMG is a site for drug distribution, but there’s an unexpected hurdle. Dee Colon, a powerful but corrupt city councilwoman, wants Matt to drop the co-owners as persons of interest in his investigation. This doesn’t prevent the detective from continuing surveillance on the men, so Colon retaliates by targeting his position and threatening to deport Sophia’s grieving parents. The councilwoman later indirectly condemns Matt on TV by making it seem as if he’s unconcerned with solving Sophia’s case. Meanwhile, Robert Gambini may be implementing more violent means to stop Matt; when the detective finds someone willing to talk, an assault in a heavily populated area results in deaths and injuries. Matt rushes to ensnare the murder suspects before he’s unemployed—or worse.
With an early focus on the possible murderers, Ellis’ (The Love Killings, 2016, etc.) series entry is more thriller than mystery. The author works this to great effect as the story reveals the burden of unearthing evidence. Matt, for example, is fairly certain he’s found the right men for the crimes, but he must admit to the police chief, at least initially, that he has nothing substantial on them. He nevertheless knows without a doubt that Colon is deceitful, but she’s evidently too influential to touch, making her the tale’s most formidable villain. When Matt denies her unfounded accusations (including planted evidence), Colon says with a smile, “The trouble is that no one will ever believe it.” Ellis generates an impressive amount of suspense, particularly when Matt is trailing suspects: In one scene, he follows someone in a car, repeatedly altering his speed to maintain a reasonable distance before ultimately continuing on foot. As a detective, Matt is determined and typically humorless; he asks people direct questions and is often blunt. This makes for a somber narrative, especially coupled with Matt’s enduring Colon’s televised character assassination as well as a beat down or two. But the detective’s frankness also leads to brief conversations that, along with periodic action sequences, provide the book with a swift pace. Although this installment is not closely tied to the preceding two novels, its ending implies that Matt’s multivolume tale is far from over.
Solid entertainment courtesy of this thriller’s cold but tenacious protagonist.