In Russell’s debut thriller, a journalist takes over a murdered colleague’s story.
When Albuquerque Post reporter Jessica Curtis’ co-worker and mentor Joe Taylor is found dead, she hopes to take the reins on his ongoing series of articles about a three-year-old Santa Fe murder. Joe was secretive about his investigation into the killing of wealthy art dealer Michael Lange, but Jessica, armed with Joe’s files, is determined to follow it up. She shrugs off warnings from her managing editor, Bill Kenner, and police detective Paul Liguori, who originally worked the case. Jessica’s certain that Joe and Lange were killed by the same person, and her speculation seems to be confirmed when she receives an anonymous, threatening note telling her to drop the story. Later, a person who might have had valuable information is killed before Jessica can learn anything. Jessica thinks she may find answers in cassette-tape recordings of Joe’s interviews, but she has to find them before the killer does—and before the killer kills her. Along the way, Jessica meets a tall, dark and handsome artist named Nicholas Adoni, but she isn’t sure if she can trust him. Russell’s meritorious mystery provides delightful visual cues throughout; for example, some suspects have physical traits to match their personalities—a nondescript senator’s aide has a lack of expression that gives Jessica chills and an affluent womanizer has beady eyes. Russell does forgo some of the fun of building up suspicion; Jessica begins her investigation with an already compiled list of suspects, and she doesn’t learn very much beyond what was already in Joe’s files. The files also provide her with possible motives and lead her to what may be the most significant clue. That said, it’s terrifically suspenseful when Jessica is invited to an upscale party where she’s surrounded by potential killers.
An enjoyable romp, even if its main character is more of a Watson than a Sherlock.