The murder of a community organizer sparks the academic interest of a student of Brooklyn history who wants to include the back story in her dissertation.
The heat is on doctoral student Erica Donato to finish her dissertation and soon, but she can’t stay focused after she and Lisa Wang, a reporter friend, attend a neighborhood meeting to determine the fate of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Although the meeting is organized as a town hall, things quickly spiral out of control when several interest groups make things personal, and Erica and Lisa are relieved when a man who identifies himself as Michael Conti takes charge. Under Conti’s no-nonsense leadership, the conversation becomes less contentious and more focused. After the meeting, Erica ventures down to the Navy Yard only to discover Conti’s corpse. She deals with her shock by wondering how to connect Conti and the Navy Yard to her dissertation research. To do so, she has to determine whether Conti’s murder has more to do with his city management past or his habit of romancing the wrong ladies. Erica tries to stay focused even when Joe, her longtime friend–turned–new boyfriend, has problems of his own. Though Joe has a long history of standing by Erica during her forays into dangerous investigative work (Brooklyn Secrets, 2015, etc.), she hopes he won’t be equally needy while she’s working on this new project. The same goes for Erica’s teenage daughter, Chris, who inconveniently agrees to make a family visit to her grandmother, Erica’s former mother-in-law, just as Erica’s making progress in Conti’s case. But Erica won’t hold the trip against Chris if she can use it to pry even more deeply into the past.
Though Stein doesn’t seem to notice it, her heroine comes off as self-absorbed, uninterested in other characters until it suits her. Readers might be more motivated to see her learn an important lesson than solve another mystery.