An archivist finds danger in the past when a colleague sets him on the trail of a fugitive who isn’t afraid to kill when cornered.
Since the death of his wife Jessie and their stillborn child three months ago, in March 1957, Ben Reese (Watches of the Night, 2008, etc.) has seldom left his house except to go to work at the Alderton University Library. One of the few excursions he does make is to the Columbus Symphony, where he plans to meet his friend Carl Walker, a loner who worked as a code-cracker in Arlington Hall during the World War II. When Carl doesn’t show, Ben shares his concern with Richard West, who’s hovered like a mother hen since Jessie died. Soon Ben finds a package on his desk containing two books and a mysterious note from Carl, whose body is found by the river with a gunshot wound that may or may not have been self-inflicted. Further notes lead Ben to a letter from Carl warning him about Bill Weisberg, who killed Carl’s fellow decrypter Miriam Gold and subsequently served a year in prison for espionage. Carl wants Ben to stop Weisberg, who threatens to resurface somewhere in the rural Ohio landscape. But Ben isn’t sure how to stop someone who lives in shadows, whose face he’s never seen and who seems bent on inflicting as much damage as he can.
No mystery here at all, only mild suspense sprinkled with quaint bits of anti-Communism and anti-Semitism.