Secrets to the Grave
Dutton, Dec 28 2010, $26.95
In 1986 in Oak Knoll, California, Peter Crane, the notorious See-No-Evil killer awaits trial (see Deeper Than the Dead). Meanwhile someone assaults twenty-eight year old single mom Marissa Fordham ruthlessly mutilating the artist before killing her. A little voice calls 911 to say her daddy was hurting her mommy. The cops find Marissa’s four years old daughter Haley strangled but with a faint pulse. She survives the lethal attack though she is traumatized.
Police Detective Tony Mendez leads the investigation. He obtains help from Anne Navarre Leone who will try to obtain the identity of the “Bad Monster” from the frightened child; and from her husband former FBI agent Vince Leone to look into Melissa’s background. The former effort makes little progress while the latter is bewildering as if Marissa lived two lives.
This is a gripping suspense police procedural that brings to life mid 1980s investigative skills with significant elements that enhance the story line. For instance 911 not providing an address (enhanced 911 had cost a lot of money) so that the victim rots for two days and the daughter lying on her dead mom’s shoulder almost joins her in death due to the time lag. Although the killer is obviously crazy with rage, the psychopath still manages to hides in plain sight; which felt wrong especially when the villain is revealed. Fast-paced, filled with action, a troubled witness, and a strong law enforcement team, readers appreciate the return to Oak Knoll with a twisting whodunit filled with misdirection.