No sooner has private eye Bill Smith pried his runaway nephew Gary Russell loose from the cops who picked him up for rolling a drunk than Gary’s taken off again, moments after telling Uncle Bill that his father would be cool with whatever it is he’s on his way to do. Unable to follow Gary, Bill tracks him backward to Warrenstown, New Jersey, the town Gary’s father Scott had just returned to after leaving 20 years earlier. High-school football rules in Warrenstown, and when Bill, nosing around Gary’s school friends looking for leads, discovers the body of sophomore Tory Wesley stripped, beaten, and overdosed in the aftermath of a wild party she gave in her absent parents’ house, everybody is studiously uninterested in finding out which local football players may have been involved. But Bill and his partner Lydia Chin, stonewalled at every turn in their search for answers, get onto bigger game when they link Tory’s death to an eerily similar crime 23 years ago: the case of Bethany Victor, who was raped by a misfit kid who killed himself soon after. At least that’s how the story goes. And in rejecting that story, Bill and Lydia head into a dark past that crosses Monday Night Football with Columbine High.
Rozan’s best books, from No Colder Place (1997) to Reflecting the Sky (2001), root their complex plots in a strong central situation. Her masterly take on one of the genre’s classic tropes—the sins of the fathers waiting to bear poisonous fruit for their children—is worthy of that trope’s own spiritual father, Ross Macdonald.