As Sam Acquillo tells us in the early pages of Back Lash, "Not everyone gets to live their adult lives orbiting a central mystery. But that's how it s been for Sam, for whom a single, horrific event has helped define his entire existence. Now that event has reached out from the deep past, an unwanted visitor, with secrets within secrets he's forced to unpack like a Russian doll, each more ominous than the one before. What is revealed would be disturbing enough if it wasn't so personal. Not a welcome development for a man who also once said, "Avoidance, rationalization, and denial are highly underrated coping strategies".
The action moves from Southampton to the Bronx, where Sam once prowled in the part-time care of his father, owner of a truck repair business and a temper that stood out even on the mean streets of the city. It's here that Sam learns that evil history doesn't only repeat itself, it can improve upon the original product. That no matter how things change, the world of cops and criminals, priests, power brokers, wise guys, and even wiser old bartenders stays the same.
Or gets much, much worse.
Early in Knopf's nicely plotted seventh Sam Acquillo mystery (after 2015's Cop Job), a stranger calls on the corporation man turned carpenter at his cottage on Long Island's Little Peconic Bay, to inform him that Marcelo "Bonnie" Bonaventure, an old and ailing retired bartender, wants to talk to him about the beating death 40 years earlier of Sam's father, Andr Acquillo, a demanding, ill-tempered, meticulous mechanic. Sam drives to the Bronx to visit Bonnie at an old folks' home, where Bonnie tells Sam something disturbing about the police investigation into Andr 's murder. Sam decides to stick around the city to do some digging and consults Madelyn Wollencroft, a cold case detective. When a thug attempts to shoot Sam one night in his hotel room, he realizes that someone doesn't want the past explored, and he brings Wollencroft actively into the case. Sam must contend with his father's ghost and his father's surviving enemies. Sam's backstory adds depth to an already strong character.