After eight mysteries mining the complicated relationship between private eyes Lydia Chin and Bill Smith (the Edgar-winning Winter and Night, 2002, etc.), Rozan makes her crossover bid with an ambitious study of a 9/11 hero’s clay feet.
First in, last out was the rule for firefighting Capt. James McCaffery, who true to his own longstanding form perished on the 44th floor of the World Trade Center while struggling to help still more of the wounded to safety. But was Jimmy McCaffery really a hero in his private life? Burned-out New York Tribune reporter Harry Randall says he wasn’t in a series of articles terminated by his plunge from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Everybody accepts the obvious explanation of suicide except Laura Stone, Harry’s protegee and lover, who vows to continue his investigation of why the McCaffery Memorial Fund, headed by Jimmy’s old friend Marian Gallagher, refused a $50,000 contribution from reputed mobster Eddie Spano, another figure from Jimmy’s childhood. After a masterfully rapid exposition, Laura’s inquiries, bolstered by dozens of moving flashbacks, move crabwise from the Trade Center bombing to focus on the 1979 shooting of Jimmy’s friend Jack Molloy by still another friend, Mark Keegan, who was killed in prison a few months after confessing, leaving behind a son who’d grow up to be a firefighter wounded on 9/11. What did the papers Harry claimed Jimmy had left behind reveal about that fatal episode, and what does the troubled past of Jimmy’s childhood circle have to do with the historic moment that revealed Jimmy as both heroic and corrupt?
The connections, in fact, are unsurprising and anticlimactic, especially after the long buildup. But Rozan pulls off a group portrait that’s both grandly scaled and painfully intimate. It’s a pleasure to see all the stuff she’s been hoarding over those ten years with her p.i. duo.