In Hudak’s debut novel, a New York City cop makes headway on a 24-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a teenage girl.
In 2001, Detective Paula Brocton is assigned an unsolved case—the presumed kidnapping of Lauren Shor in December 1977. Every year since her disappearance, her parents have received an anonymous greeting card taunting them. But this year, they didn’t. Although Paula initially doesn’t expect to spend very much time working on the case, she manages to uncover new evidence and arrests a suspect—but the following December, another card arrives. Her growing obsession with closing the case eventually leads to the exposure of deadly secrets. Hudak’s novel is a slow burn, however, as it opens with Detective Ralph DeSantis’ investigation of the initial crime scene in ’77 and follows the case through Ralph’s retirement and into the hands of other cops before it ever reaches Paula, the main protagonist. The narrative ably lures the reader in, imbued with the frustration and sorrow of a seemingly immobile investigation; it’s all the more exhilarating when Paula gets a break. Her determination is admirable, but her idiosyncrasies make her stand out, particularly the fact that she talks to herself—sometimes even yelling and raising eyebrows in her vicinity. Ralph is also a fine character but feels like a missed opportunity; some of his traits, such as an apparent desire to do stand-up comedy and his envy of a younger, more prominent detective, go nowhere. His plotline does, however, add to the novel’s overall feeling of despondency. There are so many turns in Paula’s investigation, including murder, an exhumed body and missing police reports, that even the most avid mystery fan may be surprised by one or more of them. The story also provides a good amount of suspense, as in a tense scene in which Paula thinks that someone has broken into her apartment.
A wholly engaging mystery-thriller with plenty of twists.