A man debating leaving the priesthood gets caught up in an investigation when his young neighbor’s father disappears in this mystery.
Richie Bianchi plans to spend time at his new (rented) New Jersey home contemplating his future. He’s a priest on a leave of absence, in love with Tess Tessalone but unsure what his next move will be. Meanwhile, he meets and befriends 16-year-old Dana Dvorak from across the street. Her aloof father, Eddie, doesn’t understand her love of hockey and isn’t happy she’s on the local team, the Owls. But his sudden absence shocks Dana, especially when she spots a mess in the living room and a carpet stain she believes is blood. Richie, who equates Dana with a teen he tried but was unable to help, offers assistance, joining Detective Vinnie Laszlo in interviewing Eddie’s friends and co-workers. It doesn’t seem, however, that Eddie has any enemies. The case takes a bizarre turn when a stranger approaches Dana after a game with a video (via tablet) of Eddie saying he’s OK and to stop the search. But Eddie’s odd behavior makes Dana—and later Richie—think maybe someone’s holding him against his will. Cardinale’s (One More Dance, 2013, etc.) story is light on mystery, as the investigation doesn’t take the focus away from enthralling subplots. For example, while Richie ponders a future with Tess and her 2-year-old son, Simon, Dana’s splintered family may reunite, with newfound support from her estranged mother and paternal grandfather. Likewise, games from an ongoing hockey tournament intermittently take the narrative reins, aptly capturing the energy of the ice-skating sport and an appreciative, roaring crowd of fans. Sadly, Richie doesn’t have much impact on the case; one could argue that the end result would have been the same regardless of his involvement. But it’s fun watching an amateur sleuth learn along the way, and the story hints that, whatever his decision concerning the priesthood, he’ll be back for more.
A bit sparse as a detective tale but delivers riveting character back stories.